Guide on Marijuana And Teen Addiction Treatment

When it comes to treating teen addiction to marijuana, a comprehensive and tailored treatment approach is crucial. A guide on marijuana and teen drug abuse treatment can provide valuable insights and strategies to support recovery. Understanding the effects of marijuana on the developing adolescent brain is essential, as it helps inform treatment decisions for marijuana addiction.

What Is Marijuana, And How Does It Work?

Marijuana use has been on the increase in the last few years. Marijuana- also known as weed, pot, herb, and other terms- is a hallucinogenic drug made from the dried leaves of cannabis sativa. Its psychoactive ingredient is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Marijuana is commonly consumed through smoking the dried leaves rolled in paper. These cigars are referred to as blunts or joints. Another common method of smoking marijuana is through water pipes (bongs) and vaporizers. THC can also be infused into oil used to make pastries or mixed with other foods and drinks commonly referred to as edibles.

Marijuana works by targeting cannabinoid receptors found in the nervous system. THC binds to these receptors and activates the brain’s reward system. Cannabis effect on teen brain and body is addictive. Once the brain’s rewards system is activated, higher dopamine levels are released, making the user experience euphoria. Cannabinoid receptors are more abundant in the ventral striatum region of the brain, responsible for signaling the presence or expectation of reward. Elevated dopamine levels in the nervous system stimulate the brain to repeat the rewarding behavior that may cause addiction. THC also affects the hippocampus, the region responsible for forming new memories and focus, causing impaired thinking and inability to focus on and perform complicated tasks. THC further alters the functioning of the cerebellum and basal ganglia, affecting posture, coordination, and delayed reaction to stimuli.

Statistics of Teen Marijuana Use

Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs by teenagers. Due to its mixed legality and teenage drug use statistics, some states prohibit its use for medical and recreational uses, but others permit both, so it can be freely available to teenagers. In the United States, over 94 million people have admitted to tried marijuana at least once. Among school-aged teens, 19.5% of 10th and 30.7% of 12th graders have experimented with marijuana at least once in 2021. Among the 12th graders, 22.5% have tried it in the 6 months prior to the survey, while at least 6% have reported daily use.

Causes, Risk Factors, And Protective Factors For Adolescent Marijuana Abuse

Several factors working together cause addiction. Genetics, one’s environment, and perception of drugs play a critical role in addiction. Risk factors are the traits and circumstances that increase a teenager’s risk of abusing drugs, while protective factors reduce a teenager’s risk of substance abuse. In an analysis of 22 quantitative and 1 qualitative article about marijuana abuse, risk, and protective factors could be categorized into 3 main domains. These domains include individual, familiar, and community factors.

Individual factors

Teenagers possess some characteristics that make them likely to abuse drugs. These characters emerge from their development as they seek more freedom. Some individual risk factors include rebelliousness, impulsivity, low religiousness, experience with trauma and pain, psychiatric issues, conduct problems, depression, history of drug use such as e-cigarettes, and drug accessibility. These characteristics may increase your teen’s likelihood of using drugs.

Your teen might possess some characteristics that reduce their likelihood of substance abuse. These individual protective factors include optimism, empathy, a strong belief against substance abuse, and strong religious beliefs.

Familial factors

The family plays an important role in substance abuse. It can be what leads a teen to abuse drugs or prevent the teen from abusing them. Some family risk factors include prenatal maternal drug use, negligence, poor teen supervision, high and uncontrolled allowances, availability of drugs in the home, and low parental education. These factors increase the likelihood of your teen abusing drugs.

The family may also protect against marijuana abuse by controlling the allowances given to teens, creating a home that is free of marijuana and other drugs, and enforcing a belief system that is against drug abuse.

Community factors

Environmental factors are the biggest contributor to drug abuse in teenagers. Drug use is often learned but may also be attributed to genetics. Communities with drug availability, crime, and low social cohesion may increase the risks of drug abuse. Peer pressure may also heavily influence drug use and abuse. On the other hand, communities that advocate against drug use by increasing social bonds reduce the risks of drug abuse by teens.

Effects Of Adolescent Marijuana Use

Marijuana use has many effects on a teen’s life. Before getting into the effects of marijuana use, we can examine some signs and symptoms of marijuana use and abuse. Signs of use may vary from one individual to another, but these are some of the most common symptoms.

  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Distorted perception of time
  • Euphoria
  • Hysteria
  • Appearing zoned out
  • Appearing high
  • Extreme hunger, popularly known as “munchies.”
  • Impaired problem-solving abilities
  • Distorted sensory perception
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

Long-term use of marijuana can have several negative effects on the teen’s physical and social life. These effects vary depending on factors like frequency of use, dependency, personal characteristics, and length of marijuana use. Some common effects include

  • Strained interpersonal relationships since society may shun the teen struggling with addiction.
  • Worsening of pre-existing mental conditions such as anxiety and depression.
  • Lung damage due to smoking
  • Addiction
  • Inability to get and maintain a job
  • Memory loss
  • Accidents due to impaired coordination while driving
  • Dropping out of school
  • Legal consequences
  • Increased risk of developing lung, throat, and other respiratory cancers

Diagnosing Adolescent Marijuana Abuse

The American Psychiatric Association developed the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose various mental health conditions and addiction. In 2013, it was updated to include 11 criteria to characterize whether an individual is addicted to drugs. In its previous versions, the DSM divided addiction into two vague disorders- substance dependence and abuse. After its update, it is now considered the gold standard on addiction and mental health.

DSM-5 modified how it categorized drug abuse by combining dependence and abuse into one category. It then provided the following 11 criteria to be used by medical health personnel to determine whether a person is addicted to various substances like marijuana.

  1. Tolerance
  2. Hazardous use
  3. Neglect of responsibilities and roles due to use
  4. Increased doses for longer periods
  5. Withdrawal
  6. Breakdown of interpersonal relationships due to use
  7. Repeated attempts to control use/ attempts to quit
  8. Physical problems associated with use
  9. Time spent using
  10. Giving up hobbies/ other activities due to use
  11. Continued use despite effects

These criteria are further classified into 4 broad categories: risky behavior, social effects, physical dependence, and impaired control. To diagnose using DSM-5, clinicians and other medical health providers use the above criteria to determine addiction severity.

One symptom indicates a likelihood of addiction, or the teen is at risk of developing an addiction. 2-3 symptoms indicate mild addiction to marijuana. If a teen exhibits 4-5 symptoms listed in the criteria, they have moderate addiction, while 6 or more symptoms indicate severe marijuana addiction.

The severity of the addiction will help make an informed decision on which type of teen addiction treatment your teenager needs.

Assessment Tools for Adolescent Marijuana Use

Together with the DMS-5, other screening tools have been developed to assess for substance use disorder. These include the Screening to Brief Intervention (S2BI) and the Brief Screener for Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs (BSTAD).

The National Institute on Drug Abuse developed these screening tools to help clinicians assess teen substance use disorder. The two screening tools can also be self-administered by teens or their parents. The tools contain questions about frequency of use and scale the use into no reported use, lower risk, and higher risk. This categorization helps clinicians understand what level of care is needed when treating adolescent substance abuse.

Screening tools are beneficial since they identify teens potentially at risk of developing substance use disorder. They also normalize discussions on substance use while promoting healthy behavior. The screening score can also be used to guide on what interventions are necessary to treat the addiction.

Treatment Options for Adolescent Marijuana Abuse

Different solutions for teenage drug addiction is available, depending on the severity of substance use. These services range from outpatient treatment options to residential addiction treatment services. A substance treatment plan should be created with 4 steps in mind. These steps include identifying the problem, setting goals, defining objectives, and establishing interventions. With these 4 steps in mind, a suitable treatment plan can be created.

When choosing the substance abuse treatment center that suits your teenager, you need to consider several factors. These include:

  • The cost of the treatment and whether your insurance provider covers it,
  • The qualifications of staff in the chosen facility,
  • The location of the facility,
  • Treatment duration of the program,
  • Whether the facility treats co-occurring disorders,
  • Whether the facility is specialized for addiction treatment for teens, and
  • What aftercare services are offered.

Residential Treatment Center (RTC)

The teen residential treatment center (RTC) program offered at Key Healthcare is a popular teen addiction program. It is offered at our treatment facility in Malibu, Los Angeles. It is a tailor-made program designed for teens struggling with chronic substance abuse disorder, including, but not limited to, marijuana. It is also designed for teen mental health treatment.

The RTC program runs for 45-60 days specializing in dual diagnosis treatment for teens struggling with substance abuse. Key Healthcare employs qualified staff who specialize in teen issues to run the RTC program to ensure the best services are offered for your teen.

The RTC program also uses several ways to treat marijuana addiction, including holistic rehabilitation, evidence-based treatment plans, and recreational activities to ensure your teenager receives the best care as they recover.

The Admission Process for Residential Treatment Programs

Before a patient is admitted into the RTC program, they first need to undergo an intake process. During this process, the staff collects important patient and family information to design their treatment plan. The intake process involves interviewing the teenager and having them fill out a series of questionnaires. The process might seem strenuous, but it is important to collect the information so that a treatment plan is designed just for you.

The teen will also undergo an initial assessment to evaluate their readiness to participate in treatment. During the assessment, the clinicians can establish rapport with their patients to understand the best way to support them during recovery. The teens also undergo a series of medical, psychiatric, and clinical assessments to ensure they are ready for the rehabilitation program.

The information collected during this stage is confidential and is only used to design the treatment plan for the patient’s needs. The clinicians can also identify the problem, create goals, define objectives, and establish tailor-made interventions for the teenager.

You can prepare your teen for the residential treatment program by openly discussing the program. Give them as much information as they need to help them feel comfortable with the program. Ensure you also give them time to process the information and tell their friends goodbye. This ensures they do not have unresolved issues on their mind during their rehabilitation. Remember to only pack the essentials items with your teens to the RTC program to minimize outside distractions that might interfere with your teen’s recovery.

Components of Residential Treatment Program for Adolescent Marijuana Abuse

The RTC program is an intensive treatment plan designed for teens suffering from chronic addiction and mental health conditions. It utilizes several therapies to treat marijuana addiction. These therapies include individual, group, family, evidence-based, and holistic therapies. The RTC program also has recreational activities like hiking to help teenagers develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy for teen marijuana addiction is the primary mode of treatment for teens struggling with marijuana abuse. It is conducted by qualified health practitioners using a structured approach to allow the teen to open up. During therapy sessions, the therapist encourages teens to talk about their lives and experience with marijuana use.

Individual therapy builds trust between the teenager and the therapist, allowing them to talk openly about their struggles. During therapy, they can identify the underlying causes of teen drug addiction, how they can cope healthily, and how to deal with stress. The RTC program offers individual therapy at least once a week, depending on the level of care needed.

Family Therapy

Parents often worry about how they can help their teenagers struggling with marijuana addiction. If you would like to help your teen recover, joining teen family therapy sessions offered during the RTC program is important.

During these sessions, the whole family openly communicates about their struggles and how they can work to help the struggling teen. Family therapy helps families explore the underlying causes of drug use, how to cope with stress, and how to build better family bonds.

Family members are the cornerstone of the recovery process since they offer support to the teen during and after rehabilitation. Through therapy, the family learns how to support the teen, not enable their addiction, and help them feel connected to the teen.

Key Healthcares’ family therapy sessions are conducted at least once a week. We encourage parents to join these sessions to build healthier bonds with their teenagers.

Group Therapy

Key Healthcare’s RTC program also utilizes teen group therapy to treat marijuana addiction. Group therapy is suitable for substance addiction treatment since teens can share experiences with each other. Your teen will get to interact with other teenagers struggling with marijuana addiction, where they can support each other as they undergo rehabilitation. Teens are also encouraged to foster interpersonal relationships through shared experiences during group therapy. The therapist is there to offer guidance on the topic and how teens can develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is an evidence-based treatment program designed to treat mental health and substance abuse issues. It involves helping teens change their perspective and behavior towards certain issues, such as drugs. CBT for teen marijuana addiction changes your teen’s perception of drugs. Teen negative behavior feed into a vicious cycle that can lead to marijuana use as the teen chases euphoria. Changing these negative emotions will help them break out of the vicious cycle and create a new and healthy pattern of behavior.

CBT is different from other forms of therapy because it is structured. The teenager and the therapist work together to accomplish the goals set. CBT can be done during individual therapy to encourage one-on-one interactions.

Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT for teen addiction is an evidence-based treatment method for mental health and substance abuse issues. It can be a very effective method of treating teen marijuana addiction. DBT teaches your teen how to manage emotions, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and deal with stressful situations. DBT is designed on the belief that you can have two opposing thoughts occurring simultaneously, and both can be true. This helps teens accept themselves while also making positive changes in their behavior.

DBT can be employed during individual and group sessions to help the teens identify and regulate their emotions. It can also be done through phone coaching for teens enrolled in outpatient services.

Art Therapy

Art therapy for teens is a holistic approach designed to help teens develop healthy coping mechanisms. It offers a creative outlet where teens can express their emotions through art in a safe and supportive environment. It is done in a group session led by a licensed therapist. Teens are provided with materials to express their emotions depending on a prompt given by the therapist. Art therapy involves more than just painting and drawing; teens also learn sculpting, coloring, collage-making, and photography.

Art therapy effectively treats marijuana addiction by improving the well-being of teens by increasing their expressiveness. Art therapy reduces stress, improves problem-solving, improves self-awareness, and develops coping skills.

Music Therapy

Music has been used as a form of expression for centuries. Music therapy for marijuana addiction is a holistic approach that utilizes music to reduce anxiety, depression, stress, and trauma. Marijuana addiction can cause increased anxiety, and music therapy is perfect for tackling such issues. Music therapy involves listening to various genres of music, songwriting, learning to play musical instruments, journaling, and creative visualization of music.

Music therapy helps teens process emotions, regulate thoughts, and improve their expressiveness.

Recreational Activities

Key Healthcare’s RTC includes recreational activities such as yoga, hiking, and surfing. These activities can help teens develop healthy coping mechanisms while also reducing stress and anxiety. Marijuana addiction can be treated by using recreational activities since the teen learns about their passions and is kept busy keeping away the urge to use drugs.

Academic support

In our RTC program, we also offer academic support. Our qualified academic coaches and tutors help teens stay on top of their academics to avoid falling behind in school. Mission Academy School provides curriculum and credit recovery to support your teen’s academics.

Aftercare and continuing support of adolescent marijuana abuse treatment

Recovery is a continuing process that should not be stopped after rehabilitation. Research indicates that teenagers who do not enroll in aftercare services often go back to some level of drug use after rehabilitation. To prevent this, you are encouraged to enroll your teen in an aftercare service.

Addiction aftercare program are appropriate for teens who have completed rehabilitation and those who have not. Matching teens with an age-appropriate 12-step and other mutual aid groups can support marijuana addiction recovery and prevent substance use and abuse.

Teens who receive inpatient services should be encouraged to join aftercare services with their families to keep them accountable for the goals they have set. The purpose of aftercare is to assess the teen’s recovery process and help them with any challenges that might arise after the completion of rehabilitation. Teens who attend aftercare are more likely to show improvements in substance use than those who do not.

Some aftercare services include outpatient services and sober living for teens. Outpatient aftercare services involve regular visits to a therapist for individual or group therapy.

On the other hand, sober living programs involve helping teenage transition after rehab to an independent sober life. Sober living programs provide transitional housing where the teen follows sober living community rules in an ongoing treatment program.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Adolescent Marijuana Abuse

A dual diagnosis is the coexistence of drug abuse and underlying psychological issues. The correlation between marijuana and psychosis is such that It is rare for drug addictions to exist without an underlying psychological issue. Psychological struggles contribute greatly to drug and substance abuse since drugs offer teenagers an escape from their struggles.

Dual diagnosis treatment focuses on treating the addiction and the underlying psychological cause. Some common co-occurring/comorbidities disorders that require dual diagnosis include teen anxiety and depression.

The challenge with dual diagnosis treatment is that it requires a high level of specialization. Some facilities only treat addiction, while others treat the underlying issues. Finding a facility that does both can be difficult. Key Healthcare specializes in dual diagnosis by offering holistic and evidence-based therapies to treat marijuana addiction. It also uses medication approved for treating addiction and mental health conditions to address both issues adequately.

Cost of adolescent marijuana treatment

The cost of teen marijuana addiction treatment depends on several factors. These include location, care level needed, treatment options, amenities, medication, and facility specialization. Generally, inpatient services are costlier compared to outpatient services. The cost depends on factors like amenities, cost of living in the city, and other factors. The upper end of the scale is for longer programs at well-known facilities.

At Key Healthcare, we accept most insurance covers to ensure you are not worried about breaking the bank to seek help for your teenager. Verify your insurance here.

Prevention of Adolescent Marijuana Abuse

Several strategies, like school-based, family/community-based, and digital platform interventions, are effective in preventing drug and substance abuse. Schools can prevent marijuana abuse by providing teens with accurate literature on the effects of marijuana abuse. They can also ensure regular sensitization on the effects and dangers of marijuana use. Similar interventions can be done at the family level and on digital platforms such as social media.

In the era of technology, using digital platforms to disseminate information relating to drug abuse can yield fruit in preventing marijuana abuse,


In conclusion, marijuana is among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Its psychoactive compound (THC) binds to cannabinoid receptors in the nerves releasing dopamine into the bloodstream. Dopamine is responsible for the euphoria and general happiness associated with marijuana use. However, marijuana has negative effects such as paranoia, anxiety, memory loss, and lung damage. Teens who use marijuana are also more likely to experience a breakdown in interpersonal relationships and dependence on the drug. It is important to seek help for your teen struggling with marijuana use. Choose a facility like Key Healthcare that offers residential treatment if your teenager is a chronic user of marijuana.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the benefits of a residential treatment program?

Residential treatment programs are beneficial because they have no outside distractions. At the facility, the teen can focus on their recovery without distractions. They also receive around-the-clock care with access to mental health professionals.

The staff can easily manage withdrawal symptoms at the residential treatment facility to ensure the teenager’s recovery process is not too harrowing.

How does adolescent marijuana abuse affect brain development?

Marijuana abuse affects brain development by targeting the brain’s reward system. THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system causing damage to these cells after prolonged use. Since these cells are located in different parts of the brain, THC may cause damage to parts that affect memory retention, balance, and coordination.

Can family members visit their loved ones during treatment?

Yes, family members can visit their teenagers during treatment. They can visit as part of family therapy or just to encourage the teenager through rehabilitation. Family-centered care is important in rehabilitation since it motivates the teen to recover.

Are there any support groups for parents of teens with marijuana addiction?

Yes, there are support groups to help both teens and their parents during and after rehabilitation. For teens, these groups include the 12-step group. Families can also join or make their own support groups to share the experiences of helping a teenager suffering from marijuana addiction.

Can my teen continue their education while in treatment?

Yes, teens can continue with their education while in treatment. Depending on the treatment option chosen, various facilities offer academic assistance for teens enrolled in the program. Outpatient services do not include a commitment to the facility, and the teen can attend their normal school. On the other hand, residential programs offer academic tutors and coaches to ensure the teen does not fall behind in school as they take part in residential treatment.

What are the different types of residential treatment programs?

Types of residential treatment programs include short-term treatment, long-term residential treatment, and therapeutic communities. Also, you can check out our ultimate guide on teen residential treatment.