A blog for parents concerned about their teens alcohol and drug use

Be Cautious of Boot Camps and Wilderness Programs for Your Addicted Teen
Monday, January 28th, 2013

Earlier this month a few of us attended a Lunch ‘n’ Learn event at CASAColumbia with Maia Szalavitz, a neuroscience journalist who covers health, science and public policy. She discussed the theme of her book, Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006), an exposé of the “tough love” business.

The talk prompted us to revisit and share what we at The Partnership at know about boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled and/or addicted teens.

First, it is important to note that boot camps and wilderness programs are not included among the levels of care defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Although you may have heard success stories or read about the benefits of boot camps, we strongly suggest you look very carefully into any boot camp or wilderness program before sending your teen for substance abuse treatment.

According to a government report, these programs are not subjected to federal oversight, and there have been thousands of reports of neglect and abuse at privately owned and operated boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled youth.

Ms. Szalavitz explained that a person with the disease of addiction is already in a lot of pain. To get better, that person doesn’t need more pain and abuse, but rather a kind and supportive approach to treatment. One that’s comprehensive, respectfully addressing the individual’s physical, emotional and social issues. One that makes the person feel better.

We suggest that if you are seriously considering a boot camp or wilderness program, you check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the program. You should also call the program and ask a lot of questions, including:

1) What specific substance abuse and mental health licensing and accreditation does the program have? (If the providers are not licensed, do NOT send your child to the program.)
2) Has a child in the care of the program ever died, and if so, why?
3) What specific training (particularly survival skills training for outdoor programs) do the counselors have?
4) Have there have been any complaints of abuse or neglect at the camp?
5) Can you put me in touch with a few families that have a child who have completed the program so that I can hear about their experience?
6) Who is responsible for medical care? (It should be a licensed medical doctor.)

Remember, addiction is a serious health issue and requires appropriate treatment by licensed professionals so that addicted persons can learn how to manage drug and alcohol problems, how to handle relapse and how to live a life free of drugs and alcohol.

For more questions to ask programs when looking for treatment for your child, here are some helpful resources:

To find the best assistance option for your child with an alcohol or drug problem, see our Treatment e-book.

To connect with other parents about your child’s drug and alcohol problem, join our online support community at

To speak to a trained specialist, call our toll-free helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373).

Have you sent or considered sending your child to a boot camp or wilderness program? Comment below to share your thoughts or experiences.

Posted by Intervene Staff  /  Filed under Addiction, Books about addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, parenting, Scare tactics, tough love, Treatment, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more

4 Lessons I Learned About Confronting My Substance Abusing Teen
Thursday, February 24th, 2011

When I first discovered that my daughter was using marijuana and alcohol, I was blindsided. At first I tried approaching her as a concerned parent and when that didn’t work, I resorted to yelling, threatening, punishing and even having the police at the house to lecture her when she broke curfew.  No matter what I did, things kept getting worse. I finally realized that I was having about as much success as someone standing on a train track trying to stop a fast moving train.  That was the point when I became desperate enough to seek help from adolescent addiction professionals and also joined a support group for parents who were dealing with their children’s addiction. I thought I would feel shame when I reached out, but instead found understanding, support and a sense of renewed hope. Once I began to apply my newfound knowledge by communicating with my daughter differently, things began to change for the better.  Below are some valuable lessons that I learned. 

1)  Arguing with an addicted teen doesn’t work

Reacting to your teen only fuels the fire.  Addicts can be manipulative and they have an uncanny way of turning an issue back on you.  When you react and blow up, you take the focus off of them, and put it right back onto you.  Now it is all about your anger and you are the bad guy.  This gives them even more reason to use.  Reasoning with them doesn’t work either.  A teenage addict has a chemically altered mind that will rarely respond to reason. 

2)  Set Clear Boundaries and stick to them

Your teen should understand that using drugs and alcohol comes with specific consequences. But don’t make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce. It is also important that your spouse agrees with the rules and is prepared to enforce them.  Standing as a united front as parents is crucial when you are fighting against a foreign substance that has taken over your child’s brain.  

3)  Arm Yourself with Support and Information

Learning to talk to my addict daughter was like learning a new language. My greatest teachers were my parent support group and the substance abuse counselors that partnered with me to intervene in my daughter’s addiction.  The internet is also a great tool.  I never would have been able to navigate my way though those difficult times without learning some new ways of communicating and applying them with the help of others.   

4)  Timing is everything

Perhaps your teen has been arrested or expelled from school or has been caught driving under the influence. You can use this as an opportunity to approach your child and convince them to enter treatment.  Don’t blow a good chance.  A crisis event can be an opportunity for parents to confront their child.  Facing real consequences can wake some teens up.  Any intervention, either formal or informal, is an attempt to convince an addict that they are at their bottom, and it is time to make a change.  The goal is to get your child to the place that they stop fighting for their addiction.  Going it alone however can be difficult.  Enlisting the intervention assistance of Adolescent Substance Abuse Professionals can dramatically increase the odds that your teen will become willing to accept help.

When the disease of addiction hit my family, it was like a tornado hitting our home from the inside out.  There were days when I felt like I was losing the battle.  Towards the end, my daughter had a full blown addiction to crystal meth. It was important for me to keep moving forward to keep building my arsenal of knowledge and expanding my circle of support.  Nothing changes if no one changes.  It had to start with me.

Posted by Karen Franklin  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Marijuana, Substance Abuse  /  Comments: 1

Your Teen Drug Addict on the Fringe
Thursday, June 24th, 2010

When a teen becomes an addict, that person you once knew and planned a future for has effectively checked out.  What you experience is an addict who will play you better than you can play them.  After a period of time, your teen’s brain becomes progressively “hard-wired” to his or her drug of choice, to use a colloquial term.  Re-setting and adjusting their brains requires a period of abstinence, which is near impossible for young restless addicts without early intervention. 

Public detoxification is often available but short-term.  It is rarely enough without serious follow-up.  As your teen’s addiction progresses, it is a matter of time before he or she ends up on the streets or in jail. Given the stress of having an addict in your house, either you or the addict will initiate a new chapter in your child’s addiction:  homelessness.  Fathers tend to be hard-nosed and quiet about it, mothers often the opposite.

Early intervention and keeping them off the streets is the best scenario for young addicts. Teen drug users are a tough population to win over.  They will exhaust their family.  Most parents will attempt intervention or treatment, but readily defer to their teen’s half-hearted contritions, wasting your time and your kid’s hope for early recovery.  A recurring catch-22! 

Ultimately, it is up to your teen addict to want this.  Just know that by the time they feel that sense of urgency or “bottom”, their addiction may have progressed too far for you to handle alone. In that sense, if professional intervention is not financially feasible it may be wise to hold your teen legally accountable for any criminality that arises, including legal accountability from a parent.  That is tough to ask of parents who would do anything to keep their kid out of jail.  Unfortunately, if that lesson can’t be learned early enough, the advent of a more progressive addiction and criminality is a far bigger problem down the road. I once had admirable visions for my child.  I let that go.  Achieving sobriety is a remarkable objective. 

Our jail systems are a heavy consequence for a young addict.  Few addicts have funded diversion apply to their offences. Their criminality trumps their addiction.  Reform is emerging that will engage screening and address addiction as causal where appropriate and deal with the disease. The trend we are seeing is addiction becoming a public health issue.  It is a chronic liability to a public that wants accountability for the impact of addiction.

Consider this one single instance: I witnessed my own addicted family member imposing a cost to Los Angeles County treatment centers, jails and ER facilities of over $25,000 while living on the streets for less than a year.  What’s the overall impact when you factor in estimates of opiate, cocaine, methamphetamine and other types of drug addicts numbering roughly 4 to 7 million individuals nationwide and growing, depending on who you include in the classification of a drug addict? That’s worth getting a handle on, not only for our immediate well-being but for the nation as a whole.

Posted by Bill Ford  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Treatment  /  Comments: more

A Light at the End of the Tunnel
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

It’s difficult to imagine the agony will ever end.  From the insidious disease and raging teen hormones to the ancient tradition of the younger generation happily torturing their parents, living with a teenage substance abuser feels like a roller coaster ride without a seat harness.

So some good news. If you haven’t joined the witness protection program, rest assured that aging (no, not your aging) impacts the disease.

Something happens as teen addicts get older; they find a little wisdom. Don’t get carried away, not a lot of wisdom. Just enough to see that perhaps this lifestyle isn’t especially productive. As friends land in jail or on slabs in the morgue, a remarkable process of self-awareness develops.

Maybe this isn’t as much fun as it used to be. Duh.

They also want material things. A job they can be proud of, building their often low self-esteem. College, which requires occasional lucidity. Or a decent mate who doesn’t share their joy of getting high. And they want to grow up. Maybe that originally scared them into seeking sanctuary inside a bottle or a joint.

Encourage this maturation process whenever you can. Having spent years serving as their personal cop suspecting their every move (with good reason), that’s difficult, I know. But if they’re changing, you must, too. If you remain mired in how they once were without showing some flexibility on what they may become, both of you will be trapped in the ugly past.

By giving your kids increased responsibilities, you’re showing faith in their decision- making as young adults. If they succeed, they’re the ones who’ve triumphed, not you.

Now it’s still a disease, not a choice. But within the disease is the choice to get sober. Doesn’t mean it’ll be smooth. Relapses are part of the process. If they can prove to themselves that they can handle the temptations of a more relaxed curfew, the responsibility of a job, perhaps they can handle the responsibility of confronting their addiction and saying Yes, I am getting sober. And staying sober.

Posted by Gary Morgenstein  /  Filed under Dealing with an Addicted Child, Recovery & Relapse  /  Comments: more

The Perilous Pitfalls of Enabling Your Child
Friday, June 12th, 2009

Have we raised the most spoiled generation of children in the history of humanity? After ours, of course.

Certainly you need a new laptop, darling, yours is a month old.
Those jeans are pretty shabby after one wash and what, you can’t text Mars on your cell? Poor thing.

Bad enough when the teen has normal issues, but when they’re in the clutches of addiction, enabling takes on an entirely new and dangerous meaning: spoiled brat embarrassing you in the mall on a Saturday afternoon versus drug overdose in the emergency room on a Saturday night.

We’re all at the mercy of our own overpowering love, seizing upon the slightest progress as an epiphany — so the new friend has a tattoo of Satan on her forehead, least she has a nice smile — and rewarding that with slavish generosity.

And they know it. Addicts manipulate. Teenage addicts, off the charts. Worn out from this endless war, we appease those emotional terrorists in the bedroom down the hall. Maybe they will leave us alone if we only…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Gary Morgenstein  /  Filed under Enabling  /  Comments: more


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