It Takes Two: CBT may help teen cannabis addiction


Parenting is a winding road with a confusing map. The issue of knowing when to intervene in a child’s life as they grow up is difficult. If given too much space, the child may fall into bad habits, hang out with the wrong crowd, abuse drugs and alcohol or get arrested. If given too little space, the child may rebel and run into these harmful life choices. As a parent, it is important to know when and how to act. Yet, there may now be a method to help prevent substance abuse in teenagers.

Teenagers and adults battle substance addiction daily. Some teenagers and adults even have genetic factors making them more susceptible towards addiction. A recent study led by Patricia Conrod Ph.D., finds just two sessions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT — may help prevent or decrease cannabis use among teenagers.

CBT is a form of psychotherapy working to pinpoint behavioral challenges and mental illnesses that are destructive to the patient. CBT helps to discover harmful thoughts and modify them into positive emotions, rebuilding the thought process of the patient. CBT has a limited number of sessions, but can treat a variety of conditions from sleep disorder and depression to  a relapse of addiction symptoms.

The facts

Society is continuing to accept cannabis use as normal, given the function as medicine in certain states. The common use of cannabis lowers the threat and risks in the eyes of the younger generation. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration – SAMHSA — found marijuana to be “the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States” in 2014. In some situations, cannabis may be helpful to the body as medication. Abusing cannabis outside the prescription thereof can have harmful short and long term effects. These effects include:

  • Slower movement
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty thinking and solving problems
  • Impaired memory
  • Altered senses
  • Weakens Brain Development
  • Trouble breathing and increased heart rate

The effects are not a mild annoyance that wears off in a few hours; conversely marijuana use can cause permanent damage. This study finds a possible solution to helping face cannabis abuse.

The study

The study was made up of researchers from University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine Children’s Hospital in Canada. Conrod and the researchers selected 1,038 high risk- HR – students for the study. The focus of the research was “To examine the effectiveness of a personality-targeted intervention program, also called Adventure Trial, delivered by trained teachers to high-risk high-school students on reducing marijuana use and frequency of use.”

The students went through two 90-minute CBT interventions. The students answered questions tailored to their personality. The interventions targeted students with any of four HR profiles: anxiety, hopelessness, impulsivity and sensation seeking. Sensation seekers are those who need high levels of stimulation to engage and are easily bored without it. The students also took questionnaires every six months for two years.

Conrod explains there were signs, “the program delayed onset and reduced frequency of cannabis use in all youth who participated in the interventions, but the results also consistently showed that the program was particularly effective in preventing cannabis use among those most at risk of using – sensation seekers.” In this case, sensation seekers are more willing to try new substances to avoid boredom. The study finds a decrease of cannabis use by 33 percent in the students following the CBT sessions.

The study concludes, “Personality-targeted interventions can be effectively delivered by trained school staff to delay marijuana use onset among a subset of high-risk teenagers: sensation-seekers.” By intervening in the student’s lives in just the right ways, the researchers were able to help. This study proves a new viable option for HR teenagers and drug addiction. CBT sessions may be something to add to any parent’s addiction prevention tool belt.

Facing addiction

One does not have to be a HR teenager to succumb to drug or substance abuse. The role of the parent is to help guide the child through life to adulthood. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has a source on approaching the topic of addiction with teenagers that lists steps to talking about addiction and not chasing the naturally rebellious teenager into further substance abuse. It is crucial for a parent to inform the child about the dangers of substance abuse before they fall victim to it.

White River Academy provides treatment for teens who are struggling with substance abuse, mental health, rehabilitation and dual diagnosis. If your teen is dealing with cannabis abuse or addiction, please do not hesitate to call or chat with a member of our team online to get help today.

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