Boot Camps for Kids with Marijuana Addiction: Can they Help?

It’s a common belief these days that marijuana is safe, and it’s true that marijuana isn’t addictive in the same way as heroin or cocaine. However, it is estimated that 7 to 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependant, which means they will experience withdrawal symptoms when not using marijuana.

Marijuana can be harmful to teens, and the rate of dependance may be as high as 17 percent for people who start using before the age of 18.

If your teen is using marijuana regularly, you may be wondering how you can help and where to turn. A teen boot camp may seem like the best possible solution.

However, it’s important for parents to make a decision with eyes wide open. Boot camps may help kids with marijuana addiction or other problems, but some camps that claim to help end up making the problem much worse.

What’s the Problem with Teen Boot Camps?

There’s certainly nothing wrong with spending time outdoors, and a well-run wilderness camp provides opportunities for troubled teens to gain responsibility, work alongside others and learn new coping skills.

Removing the teen from his daily environment and into an area where he can focus on positive change can be a real benefit for a troubled kid.

However, an overly harsh, punitive boot camp with a prison-like atmosphere can be disastrous, often because teen boot camps aren’t closely regulated and have little accountability.

Allegations levied against teen boot camps include:

  • Physical abuse, include starving, beating, kicking and choking
  • Molestation, rape and other forms of sexual abuse
  • Beatings and other types of physical abuse
  • Verbal abuse, including degrading, shaming and humiliation

In the United States, several teen boot camps have been shut down over the past few years, primarily due to reports of severe abuse and punishment. Several deaths have been reported.

What can Parents Do?

Before you search for a treatment center or wilderness camp, remember that addiction is considered a disease because it alters the brain in very real, physical ways. Like any other disease, addiction isn’t “fixed” by fear and punishment. However, addiction is treatable.

Be sure a teen treatment provider is appropriately accredited in your area. For example, treatment centers in the United States must be accredited by (CARF) the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities; or JCAHO, formerly known as the Joint Commission.

Proper accreditation ensures the program has passed a rigorous process and thorough review indicating the facility has met accepted standards for quality care.

Therapists and counselors should be highly-trained, appropriately certified, and experienced with problems that affect youth. Programs should be positive in nature, not punitive.

Programs should include not only addiction treatment, but your teen should have access to a variety of therapeutic programs tailored to address her particular issues. Teen programs should also include life skills training and continuing education that ensure your child won’t fall behind in his studies.

Ask plenty of questions, and most importantly, don’t leave your child at the boot camp if your instinct tells you something isn’t right. Look for a adolescent treatment center that will treat your teen with skill and compassion.

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