Teen Marijuana Abuse Treatment

Marijuana is comprised of various parts of the cannabis plant, a weed that grows wild in many areas of the world. While related to the crop plant hemp, it is distinct in that heating and ingesting the dry leaves, stems, flowers, and extracts can produce euphoria. This is largely because marijuana contains high levels of a psychoactive chemical called THC, while the THC levels in hemp are nearly non-existent.

In the United States, nearly all marijuana is cultivated, produced, and sold by the black market. Most teens who use marijuana smoke it, but it is possible to bake extracts into brownies, candies, and even food substances like butter.  No matter how marijuana is ingested, it still carries the same associated risks for growing teens.

What Does Marijuana Abuse Look Like?

  • Marijuana affects certain brain chemicals when ingested or smoked. The main psychoactive ingredient, THC, influences brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Because these are critical components of the brain’s pleasure, movement, memory, and development centers, teens who smoke marijuana often experience a pleasurable sense of relaxation and a euphoric high.
  • Several states are now making recreational and medical cannabis legal, creating the belief that use is acceptable while also significantly increasing accessibility to the drug. Because of this fact, teens in legalization states like California now have an easier time finding and purchasing the drug through both the illegal black market and the legal recreational market.
  • Teens who use marijuana chronically are at significant risk for harm despite the drug’s generalized low-risk profile. In fact, some studies show a link between marijuana use and the development of psychosis or Schizophrenia in users under age 18. Other studies reveal a sharp drop in cognition and intellect with chronic use. While not technically physically addicted, cannabis is most certainly psychologically addictive.

Signs of Marijuana Abuse

Teen Marijuana Abuse Treatment

Red, irritated eyes

Teen Marijuana Abuse Treatment

High heart rates

Teen Marijuana Abuse Treatment

Sluggish reaction times

Teen Marijuana Abuse Treatment

Poor cognitive function

Teen Marijuana Abuse Treatment

Fatigue or sleepiness

Teen Marijuana Abuse Treatment

Excessive overeating

What Causes Marijuana Abuse?

There’s no single reason every teen turns to marijuana, nor is it always clear why some seem able to experiment once while others become addicted. We do know that recent increases in legal access have made marijuana use more acceptable while also making the drug easy to access, giving teens more opportunities to use.

Some teens turn to marijuana simply due to curiosity or peer pressure. They may use once, twice, or even a handful of times throughout high school and never use again. Others try it once and like it so much they feel driven to use again and again, eventually becoming so dependent they smoke or ingest it every day. Often, chronic users are really self-medicating difficult emotions like anxiety, agitation, anger, depression, or mood swings.

Availability – Marijuana’s newly legal status in many states make it one of the most accessible illicit drugs available to teens. Most research shows that availability is one of the strongest predictors of use aside from peer pressure and curiosity.

Lack of information – Legalization started important conversations about the medical benefits of marijuana and other safety issues. Unfortunately, it has also spurred on a culture of denial about the risks associated with the drug. Proponents argue that smoking or ingesting marijuana is consequence-free or even healing to the body; this isn’t always true. The truth is that we don’t yet fully understand marijuana’s benefits and risks, especially where the teenage brain is concerned. Just because it isn’t as dangerous as other drugs, like cocaine, does not mean it’s safe for teens to use even just once. What we do know is that many chronic users report feeling intense anxiety and a resurgence of untreated mental health problems when they try to stop using on their own.

Depression and anxiety – Marijuana’s role in treating depression and anxiety is poorly understood, and potentially, harmful. While some patients are prescribed the drug because they experience some measure of benefit, we also know that patients with mental illnesses are far more likely to experience psychosis or a worsening of symptoms when they use marijuana.

Furthermore, marijuana use is not an effective long-term solution for mental illness; it’s a temporary panache at best. It might even delay teens from getting more appropriate help or delay their emotional and social development well into adulthood. The bottom line is that there is a big difference between taking prescribed marijuana and using it socially to treat symptoms.

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Teen Anxiety Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco


of all grade 12 students use marijuana every day


of all teens between 13 and 18 use daily


of all teens 13 to 18 vape marijuana when they use

How Can I Help a Teen with Marijuana Abuse?

Monitor Their Usage – Experimenting with marijuana is really common during the teenage years, and not every teen goes on to become addicted. In fact, compared to other drugs, marijuana is highly unlikely to cause addiction – but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for teens to use. If teens come home exhibiting typical “stoned” behavior once or twice a year, you probably aren’t looking at a serious or chronic issue. If they come home every night obviously high, something more may be going on. This is especially true if their behaviors are paired with other typical signs of marijuana abuse, like lack of motivation, skipping school, suddenly struggling with schoolwork, avoiding social contact, or even getting into trouble with the law.

Talk to Them About Getting Help – Opening a dialogue is the most important first step you can take if you think your teen is abusing marijuana. This is true whether you suspect a single use, you aren’t sure if they’re using, or if you know first-hand they’re using every single day. Talk with your teen and encourage them to be honest about their use; try not to judge them, even if you don’t understand. Teens may become defensive, especially if they’ve been misled about its safety via peers and online resources. Try to focus more on how marijuana is negatively affecting them and the people around them vs. resorting to scare tactics.

Seek Out Recovery Options Together – As a parent, you stand a much better chance of getting through to a teen abusing marijuana if you approach the situation as an ally who wants to help them help themselves. Seek out recovery options together as a team. Look for comprehensive, holistic treatment processes from facilities with the experience needed to help them work through underlying contributors.

What Types of Teen Marijuana Abuse Treatment Are Available?

Treating teen marijuana abuse can be difficult; because the drug isn’t physically addictive, teens may become very defensive and even insist they don’t need help. Often, they will resist treatment or even refuse to take part. That’s why facilities like Paradigm San Francisco take a biopsychosocial approach to recovery. Addiction experts learn how to identify important factors that drive teens to become dependent, such as social pressures, mental illnesses, past trauma, or even just excess stress.


Talk therapy, sometimes referred to as psychotherapy, is the number one strategy used in teen marijuana abuse treatment. In one-on-one sessions with a trained therapist, teens learn about themselves, their motivators to use, and why they became dependent on marijuana in the first place. Therapists also help the teen identify where their use spiralled out of control and became maladaptive or harmful to their health. A big part of this process involves teaching teens the straight truth about marijuana – including the fact that it can be dangerous when misused.

Group Therapy

Teen marijuana abuse can have an incredibly negative impact on the teen’s family, friends, parental relationships, and other peer relationships. Group therapy seeks to help teens re-learn how to interact without marijuana so they can take responsibility for their actions and develop healthier relationships for life. It also helps family members understand their role in the teen’s recovery before and after they return home from residential treatment.

Residential Treatment

Even though marijuana isn’t technically physically addictive, psychological addiction can feel almost overpowering when teens have the same level of access to cannabis. Residential treatment is one of the best options for teens who become dependent on any drug, including marijuana. Removing teens from the same everyday triggers that cause them to continue using can be enough to help them finally break the habit.
At Paradigm San Francisco, teens in marijuana abuse treatment have constant 24-hour access to therapists and counselors who can help them deal with withdrawal and difficult emotions as they happen.

Teen Marijuana Abuse Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Teens who abuse marijuana can slip further and further down the rabbit hole, eventually moving to other more dangerous drugs. But even if all they ever abuse is marijuana, the potential for serious emotional harm still exists. Seek teen marijuana abuse treatment early and promptly; it’s the best way to empower your child to change the underlying motivating factors that contribute to them taking the drug in the first place. At Paradigm San Francisco, taking a holistic approach isn’t just recommended, we consider it necessary.

Drug Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Marijuana isn’t technically physically addictive, but many chronic users report both physical and emotional symptoms when they withdraw cold turkey. When teens come to Paradigm San Francisco, staff know to watch for these symptoms and treat them as they occur.  Once initial withdrawal passes, we help teens learn how to develop new coping skills that make them a healthy, productive member of society without turning back to the drug.

Getting Back into It

Teens who are addicted or dependent on marijuana often report feeling completely overwhelmed by the idea of facing life responsibilities without it. At Paradigm, we help teach teens how to take the right steps back into a fully engaged lifestyle, drug-free. This includes being available when teens begin to feel overwhelmed and helping them work through emotional challenges as they occur.

My son went to this program. It was INCREDIBLE!!! We were able to get him on track with communicating better and teaching him that drugs are not part of his future. He feels more and more empowered each time he says NO! His communication skills with our family has improved greatly. We appreciate knowing we can always go to Paradigm for help if needed! Their family support is top notch. Working the program with your child is the best way to heal the pain and miscommunication. I personally feel they deserve higher than 5 stars!

– Wendy M.

Frequently Asked Questions About Marijuana Abuse

What if I just smoke for fun?

Teen marijuana abuse is common and in some cases, teens can smoke it for fun and move on with their lives without further consequences. But it’s important not to overlook the potential harms just because someone else’s experience has been positive along the way. Science tells us there is proven evidence of correlation between early marijuana use and neurological consequences, as well as very serious permanent mental illnesses. This is mostly specific to the teenage brain because it’s still developing. Not only could you be arrested or even legally charged for having marijuana, but you could also find yourself facing years of depression or even struggling with psychosis, too. You’re worth so much more than that!

There is also the issue of how easy it is to forget how your behavior affects others when you smoke. Your decision to use marijuana could jeopardize your relationship with your parents, friends, romantic partners, and even your teachers at school. Teen marijuana abuse treatment can and will help with these problems.

If it’s so bad, why is it legal now in some places?

Marijuana is now legal across most of the country for medical use; in some states, recreational use is also permitted. This is partially because of marijuana’s low risk profile in relation to overdoses. It’s also true that it’s far less physically harmful than drugs like heroin or cocaine, but it’s important to see legalization with the right perspective. Legalizing marijuana wasn’t about saying the drug is free from harm (if that were true, alcohol and cigarettes wouldn’t be legal to purchase in our society). It’s about reducing harms, like long jail sentences, for people who use responsibly and arguably do less harm in society than, say, people using crack.

But just because marijuana is legal, does not mean it’s safe for you to use. Even though it has medicinal effects, it impacts every user differently. Like all prescription drugs, you shouldn’t use it unless your doctor agrees that the benefits to you outweigh any potential harms. Either way, smoking marijuana isn’t a viable and healthy way to treat your symptoms. If you find yourself needing marijuana to cope with emotional or physical symptoms, your doctor can help you find the right dose and delivery method to ensure your safety.

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