Mom Needs Help with Troubled, Pot-Smoking Teen

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Need help with my troubled teen. He is stealing from family members smoking weed very angry punching walls. I have tried everything he is only 16 years old and heading in the wrong direction reaching out for help please help me to save my child.

~Stephanie

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Last year, my 20-year-old cousin was arrested for possession of oxycontin.  After that, we discovered he had been addicted to it for at least a couple of years.  He went into rehab, for two months and when he got out, he seemed to be fine.  He has dropped out of college, but has been working for about six months now.  Though he doesn’t earn a lot at his restaurant job, he has virtually no expenses.  But, in the last few weeks, he’s been having money problems, not paying his rent and other bills.  He says he just isn’t managing his money well.  But we’re afraid he’s using again.  He’s more distant than before, but denies he’s back on the drug.  We can’t force him back into rehab, indeed we don’t even know for sure that he’s still got a problem.  What should we do?

~“C”,  Atlanta


My name is Neil Kaltenecker and I am the executive director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, a non-profit statewide organization dedicated to reducing the impact of substance abuse in Georgia’s communities through education, advocacy and training. We believe that addiction is a public health crisis that needs a strong and organized response from policy-makers, communities and individuals and we aim to give voice to recovery communities in order to highlight the reality of recovery.

I am also a person in long-term recovery from alcoholism which for me means that it has been more than 21 years since my last drink or illegal drug. And I talk about my recovery because I strongly feel that everyone should have the opportunities that I’ve had to get well, and because of my recovery I have become a better spouse, step-parent, sister, daughter, friend and co-worker.

Problems such as those described above are experienced by thousands of families and loved ones all over the country and underscore the need for education on issues related to harmful alcohol and drug use and addiction.  Substance abuse is often misunderstood and this can lead to prejudice, discrimination and stigmatization. In this space, I will be addressing these types of issues and will attempt to reframe the focus in order to help youth and families not only get the help they need to recover but also attempt to reverse policies that discriminate against people in or seeking recovery.

Both of the letters above reflect a deep concern for the behavior of a young person who is acting in ways that are out of the norm for each of them. Adolescent substance use is likely to have a long-term impact on both the individual, the family and on society.  According to Michael L. Dennis, Ph.D., Chestnut Health Systems and Kerry Anne McGeary, Ph.D., University of Miami (1999):

High rates of marijuana and alcohol use among adolescents are related to many other problems. Relative to non-users, adolescents who reported weekly marijuana and alcohol use are about four times more likely to report past year behavior problems related to attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders, conduct disorder or delinquency (57 percent vs. 4 percent), dropping out of school (25 percent vs. 6 percent), being involved in a major fight (47 percent vs. 11 percent) and being involved in one or more illegal activities during the past year (69 percent vs. 17 percent). Moreover, they were 8 to 23 times more likely during the past year to have:

  • Committed a theft (33 percent vs. 4 percent)
  • Damaged property (31 percent vs. 3 percent)
  • Shoplifted (41 percent vs. 4 percent)
  • Been on probation (16 percent vs. 1 percent)
  • Been arrested (23 percent vs. 1 percent)
  • Sold drugs (31 percent vs. 0 percent)

These, and other, risky behaviors are a cause for concern and a formal, clinical assessment may be warranted for further direction from a professional.

To Stephanie, I’ll say, your son's behavior could well be the result of chemical dependency in the form of heavy marijuana use. He is in need of an assessment from a qualified professional who will have suggestions regarding a course of treatment or intervention. His behavior should settle down enough for him to be able to start to recognize the impact drugs are having on his life. The key to this recognition is for him to be able to talk honestly about his drug and alcohol use.  Whether this happens in a safe group setting or with a caring individual that he trusts is up to him. His behavior is likely to level out once the craving for drugs are not setting his behavioral priorities. Many youngsters have experienced the same symptoms and have gone on to have healthy relationships and a positive future.

Also to “C,” in the case of your cousin who returned from rehab and who may be using again, relapse is common in young people and doesn’t mean that he can not or will not get back on the road to recovery. I urge families to approach their kids with the same concern that is conveyed so clearly in their letters -– “I am worried about you and want you to know that I’m here and available if you would like to talk” -– is a good place to start.

It must be recognized that as with other chronic health conditions, recovery from addiction is self-directed, meaning that each person is in charge of their own recovery program. Connections to positive messages, people and activities are typically an essential part of getting well, as is understanding that people can and do recover!

The views expressed herein are entirely those of Neil Kaltenecker and do not necessarily represent the views of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, the Center for Sustainable Journalism or Kennesaw State University.

One thought on “Mom Needs Help with Troubled, Pot-Smoking Teen

  1. Drug addiction is one of the serious problems that are not easy to correct even taking treatments from rehab centers. Many people are not able to leave abuse habits even after experiencing treatments from addiction treatment centers. It is important to carefully choose these types of treatment centers for troubled teens.