Treatment for Drug & Alcohol Abuse

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(Professionally-Led) Substance Use Group for Teens (0 responses)
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Kaiser teen drug program?

March 2013

My son has been smoking way too much pot (what is not too much?) and I am trying to learn more about options. It has effected his grades, honesty, motivation, etc. Anyone have a child who did there teen drug group and parent component (if there is a parent component). Did it help? Ongoing support? Thanks. needs help


Kaiser has a few teen chemical dependency programs in the Bay Area. Kaiser will tell you you have to go to the Oakland program if you live in Alameda county. This is not true. I take my child over the hill to Walnut Creek. I really like Claudia Wathen who runs the Walnut Creek clinic. You may have a better experience in Oakland then we did, but it did not work for out for us. Most of the kids show up because they have to at first. Some of them are on probation, got in trouble at school or had a hospitalization for drug or mental health issues. The question is does he think he has a problem? Will he willingly go to a group? Most of the kids like the groups when they connect to the other teens. The whole family is involved. Yes there are parent support groups, and groups for parents and teens together. Its a twelve week program. The whole family commits to having a sober household. The teens are drug tested a few times a week. You go to groups three or four times a week. Its not clear from your post what your son needs at this time. I would give the directors of the different programs a call. Ask lots of questions! A grate place to start is to see if he would just be open to individual therapy just to see whats going on. I had to be a fearless, strong mother, but now my daughter is a happy, healthy sober teen. So grateful for Kaiser! Be fearless ,chose life!

Teen Addiction Specialist for 16yo daughter

July 2012

I need the name of a very good therapist for my teenage daughter who has drug addiction problems. She is 16. Of course Kaiser failed to help her with their pitiful mental health resources so I'm looking for an excellent therapist for her to work with several times a week if necessary. Also any programs people would recommend would also be much appreciated. Anybody use Coyote Coast in Orinda?? She is currently at a therapeutic boarding school which is NOT a drug rehab program and I don't want her to stay there. Thank you so much in advance. I live in Walnut Creek. Desperate mom


My boyfriend had a severe addiction to medication. His family sent him to Summit Prep in Montana. He says he hated being there, but acknowledges that the treatment saved his life. Although boarding schools are a bit extreme, it can work for some people. Here's the link: http://www.summitprepschool.org/ anon
Hey there, I've had great success with Dr. Tim Browne. He's in Walnut Creek and is really fantastic with teenagers and substance abuse- that's the majority of his practice. His number is 925-937-3999. Mike
I know there haven't been rave reviews about Kaiser on here but they were the best thing for me. I was a depressed drug addicted teen. I would keep pushing to get her into cdrp in Oakland its an out patient rehab program. I did that as well as PHP at Herrick in berekeley and before that I did iop at Kaiser. Where ever you go it seems its always a fight to get the help you need . Sorry I can't recommend another program. But I am now a happy drug free 22 year old. If you want to talk more I would love to help. I know my mom got the state involved to get me other services. Good luck Happy with kaiser anon
For parent looking for teen addiction specialist, try www.thebodingroup.com, they specialize in placement for teens.
I highly recommend contacting Thunder Road Adolescent Treatment Centers, Inc: http://www.altabatessummit.org/thunderroad/ They are located in Oakland. I have worked with them professionally and personally. They are great! Anon

Heroin addiction therapist

Dec 2011

A family member who has recently moved to the Bay Area is battling a 2- year heavy addiction to heroin. He's been clean for 2 months, and is working hard to stay clean, but needs some help dealing with the cravings and other issues. He's also been a victim of abuse. He's 23. Can anyone recommend a therapist, preferably female? At this point he'd prefer not to go into a rehab group or program, but might do so if a therapist recommended it. Anon


Try: Bob Matano PhD ( offices in SF and near Rockridge BART) or Sharone Abramowitz, M.D. ( Oakland) JM
There are a lot of treatment specialists out there. A friend of ours was referred to a clinic in Lafayette, CA, & it saved his life. A New Leaf is worth looking into: http://www.nltc.com/index.html Also, Suboxone is a beneficial prescribed medication. I wish your young relative all the best, and thanks to you, too, for being there to help. It's very important work. Thanks
I would recommend you contact Dr. Carolyn Schuman. She is an internist who works together with a therapist helping people with opiate addiction. She's very professional and kind and she has years of experience in this specialty. She has a nice little office in Berkeley. You can contact her at 510-406-4874. anonymous
Rozelle Vogelman specializes in addiction and has a great rapport. Office is in Oakland, near 27th. I think she'd be a good fit for your family member. (510) 910-3537 http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/name/Rozelle_Vogelman_MA,MFT_Oakland_California_84929 anon

Thunder Road IOP or Individual Therapy for teen's substance abuse?

June 2011

I'd like to hear from parents who have recent experience with their teens participating in Thunder Road's Intensive Outpatient Program (most recent archive post is 2008). Is there a strong one-on-one therapy component or is it mainly 12-step groups? My high school aged teen finally admitted that she's been drinking as well as smoking weed. She said she's ready for treatment (which she had refused when I discovered the extent of weed use); she wants to work with a therapist again. No longer Kaiser members unfortunately, so can't access its excellent teen Early Intervention services, but Thunder Road is a provider under my new insurance.

I don't know whether to pursue Thunder Road or similar outpatient program or look for an individual therapist who specializes in teen substance abuse and depression. Information on Thunder Road and/or individual therapists much appreciated.


If your daughter is ready that is the key. Therapists don't help -- in fact I believe they enable and get you off on the wrong track.

My son, 17, completed the out patient program at Thunder Road in February of this year, but was resistant and never did click with the leader. I was disappointed that the leader did not control the group very well. It was very difficult to get in contact with anyone at Thunder Road or obtain any individual assistance. But it was covered by UBH. It's the only program in the area. Anonymous


I didn't respond earlier because I didn't have any direct experience with the Thunder Road outpatient program. But my son went through one month of their inpatient program (AND also private therapy). I suggest you ask your questions directly to the TR staff. They are good at answering such questions. Yes, TR does use the AA/NA 12-step program but that's just part of it. And everything they do is because they know it works. Most of the staff are recovering addicts themselves (the AA philosophy is that you can't ''cure'' addiction). In fact, many parents of addicts have themselves had some kind of addiction at one time or another, so for the inpatient program the PARENTS have to go to a weekly AA meeting at TR if they want to spend the full allowed visiting time with their kid. But that's not all the kids do that they wouldn't do with a therapist: they also learn how to develop healthy interests by doing fun things, and learn how to avoid the circumstances that led to their addiction. My conclusion: TR will probably give your kid more tools for recovery than a private therapist would in general. Mother of a teen with 2.5 years ''clean''

Family therapist for 17-year-old's heavy marijuana use

July 2010

My 17 year old son is becoming a heavy marijuana user. We have worked on this with him (private therapy, expressing disappointment, etc.) since he was 14. Before, he would NEVER bring it into the house, now he seems to smoke it all the time, the minute I leave. At this point, I am at my wits end. I am looking for a therapist who can work with our family. One to maybe help him and two, to help me move on. I really want him out of our house the minute he turns 18. He was on a path to go to college (not now, doesn't care) and then considered the military (but he has a drug bust in school and shows no sign of stopping marijuana use, so I'm guessing that's out). Anyone know a good therapist in San Ramon, Pleasanton, Danville area? I could really use some help here. shelly



Timmen Cermak, MD 239 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941-2841 Near intersection with Park Avenue (415) 381-4009 (Addiction Psychiatry) Specialist: Psychiatrist (Addiction Psychiatrist)
He specializes in teens w/drug abuse. We found him to be excellent & soooooo diff from other children's shrinks. We were also dealing w/a child with a chronic illness that was affecting both body & mind-using drugs to ''mask'' his symptoms. However in Mill Valley not EBay. May have other offices or can refer. Elizabeth
Dear Shelly, I am very sorry about your son. My 21 year old daughter sees Gail Alter in Orinda (510) 433-2972. Gail really understands addiction. She also has helped my husband and I deal with our daughter's addiction. In addition, we've started attending Al-anon - there are meetings for Parents with Alcoholic Children- our meeting is in Walnut Creek on Monday nights at the Covenant Church. If you have Kaiser - it has an excellent Chemical Dependency Program and my daughter is in an early recovery group every day there. You are smart to take action now. ANON
We are dealing with similar issues, and I know lots of other parents who are, too. I have talked with the therapists at Coyote Coast, and really liked them. (http://www.coyotecoast.org) Many people benefit from Al-Anon. Also, he is not in your area, but we really benefited from talking with Dr. Josh Coleman, who wrote ''When Parents Hurt,'' a wonderfully sympathetic book about how parents feel when dealing with difficult issues with their kids. (http://www.drjoshuacoleman.com/) Another parent
Dr. Karen Kaufman ( on the Alameda in Berkeley) is highly recommended by people we know and by our family. She works extremely well with teens and young adults. Karen makes her self available for your schedule. She is a savvy woman who asks the right questions and gets results with her patients. Karen lends tremendous support to the entire family through challenging times. Virginia
Hi Shelly, Don Elium is a therapist in Walnut Creek who is insightful, instructive, knowledgeable, sensitive and skillful in working with the whole family. He makes sure that everyone is heard in a respectful way. That said, I want to offer another suggestion. It seems that both you ad your son could benefit from a change of scene. Your son needs to be away from old relationships that maintain the status quo and in a new community where there are high expectations. He needs to be given a chance to detox his brain, to evaluate his values and decisions. I suggest finding a college prep boarding school that is not a drug rehab, therapeutic or lockdown, but that will make every effort to get him back on track. And pardon me here for sounding like a commercial, but Hyde (hyde.edu) School is a place that works with on track and off track students and includes the family in the process. There are many of us here in the Bay Area who are benefitting from Hyde-- in monthly meetings in the form of ''moving on'' and discovering our own unique potential while our students do their work at Hyde. If you're interested, contact the school and they will connect you with current families and provide you with detailed info about the school. Please contact the moderator for my email if you'd like to talk. walked a mile in your shoes
I am an MFT in Orinda and have worked with teens (and all other ages) with substance abuse problems. If your son is 17 and has been having a problem since 14, he is need of more intensive treatment than therapy, and your best bet would be to have him assessed at a treatment facility. I have often worked with Thunder Road in Oakland and would recommend them as a place to start. Don't be misled that pot use alone is not harmful or addictive. It is an amotivational drug and will seriously impair your son's abilities in many ways. Also, getting him into treatment before he is 18 gives you some leverage that you won't have after he turns of age. Best of luck. April

College-aged son struggling with addiction

February 2008

Our son, who is college-age (but not in college), is struggling with addiction to drugs. Because of his age, we don't have charge of him any more, but are providing him with as much moral support as he will let in, which is not much. Mostly, we argue! We would like to find him a therapist who is strong about addiction, very clear, firm, and not enabling his addiction, but also motivating--someone who could explore and explain addiction to our son in a way that would get through to him. We are familiar with addiction and have done reading and talking, but also could use some book recommendations to read for ourselves about being parents of an addicted kid, or about setting firm but still loving boundaries about the ways in which we should or should not be involved in his life and struggles. Also, are there any support groups for parents of addicted kids? Of course there are twelve step groups, and they are great, but we are also seeking ordinary therapy or support groups as well. Our son could also use a support group as well as a great therapist. He needs strong structure that is not provided by us, as he is rebelling against us and doesn't want to listen to us, but might go to some other resources for help if we could figure out the right ones. He is angry, sad, confused, resistant, and also well over eighteen, so we can't tell him what to do, we can only try to help. We are not at the very beginning of this, so have tried some avenues that haven't worked out, such as therapists not familiar with addiction. Our son is not currently in therapy, but we think that if we could find a good person, he might be willing to try again, since he is unhappy as well as angry and defiant. We live in the Oakland area, but are open to therapists anywhere in the East Bay, including the Lamorinda area, Alameda, Berkeley, wherever. We just want to find what might help. Although he is not yet willing, we would also like to learn about recommendations for residential treatment programs so we can be ready with good ideas if he becomes more open. appreciative of help


I am a physician at the Kaiser Oakland Chemical Dependency Recovery Program. We have very professional counselors, and a great outpatient program for addicted adults and teens. I think that being part of a program is essential to recovery from alcohol and drugs. If you are a member of Kaiser, and he would be willing to come for an interview, I think he could get the help that he needs here. Please feel free to email me if I can be of help to you. m
Your drug addicted son might be a good candidate for Thunder Road in Oakland on 40th Street I believe. I think they have in and outpatient (maybe only aftercare from inpatient). I've heard good things about it.

From personal experience of delaying getting a sponsor and wanting to do it on my own, I didn't get as much out of a 12-step program. I really wasn't ready to use the help that is available. Once I got a sponsor, everything good happened. When I was truly convinced that my way wasn't working, I asked for the help I needed and wanted regardless of my possible contempts prior to investigation of 12-step. First, I learned that it is okay to ask for this kind of help because I am worth it and I don't have to do this alone. Any prejudices can be addressed if I talk about them with my sponsor.

Best wishes to your family.

Practically all legitimate recovery programs, will advise going to 12-step and getting a sponsor to work the steps. Some people refer to in-house recovery programs a $20,000 Big Book. (The main recovery book in 12-step programs.) I'm not knocking recovery places. Some people really need to be watched, have medical care, etc.

If you don't care for Alanon, Codependents Anonymous is a good program. And there are quite a few meetings at Mandana House in Oakland on 41st and Howe I think.


Here are two recommendations, both happen to have offices in Rockridge: David Celniker 547-0103 He's young (40 actually, but seems younger), has a lot of experience working with youth and addiction and I know of three 17/18 year-olds who like and respect him. Robert Matano 559-9011 He specializes in working with substance abuse issues. He may be starting a group for young men soon. Good luck. parent who has been there

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab for 17-year-old

January 2008

I am looking for an outpatient drug and alcohol rehab program, in any East Bay city, but preferably Contra Costa County. I have gotten the names of some psychologists in private practice, and I know that there are programs associated with hospitals, but I am looking for something that is not ''community'' and yet might have a small group of teens meeting once a week along with a once a week individual meeting. This is for a teen coming out of residential rehab where follow-up care is needed. Any recommendations much appreciated. He is 17. anon


Try Tri-Cities in Pinole on Appian Way, near Fitzgerald for outpatient alcohol and drug rehab. Feel free to e-mail me for more information. Rachele
My 16 year old daughter had a marijuana addiction on top of depression which began at 13. The program which has worked for her is New Leaf Treatment Center in Lafayette. Dr. Stalcup is an addictions specialist and evaluates whether there are underlying mental health issues which require psychotropic medication and psychotherapy. We used Kristina Whitney, Ph.D. for weekly therapy on top of the drug/alcohol program.

Other resources: Kaiser, Thunder Road in Oakland, and Coyote Coast in Orinda which is an intensive outpatient program for kids coming out of residential placements. Good Luck! Mary


Alcoholism Residential Program for family member facing jail

June 2007

A close family member who is an alcoholic, had his third DUI last year (within a 10-year span - his first offense was 9 1/2 years ago). Unfortunately, unexpected difficulties in his personal life caused him to relapse last year and he started drinking heavily. One night, he was caught driving under the influence. As a result of the 3-strikes law, he was recently sentenced to either 10 months in jail or 7 months in a residential facility. He is fully aware of his problem and recognizes he needs help and he wants it, but hasn't been able to locate a free residential program for the 7 months that the court mandated. He lost his job last year -- thus, the drinking -- and has no financial resources. Despite numerous calls to places/resources, he has only learned of a couple of 90- day programs that are free. These will not help him since he must attend the program for 7 months. He can not afford a private program, so those are not an option. Any suggestions/feedback/advice on this topic would be greatly appreciated. Anonymous


I have no knowledge of programs, but the probation department should be able to help. I would note, however, that your family member was not sentenced under the three strikes law (which is part of the Penal Code and controls sentencing for people convicted of felony offenses who have one or more prior convictions for defined serious or violent felonies); he received the sentence specified in the Vehicle Code for repeat DUI offenders.
A friend of mine, after repeated DUIs, was ordered to check in to a residential treatment facility last year or else go to jail. She had no money - had lost her job, her car, and her house and was living with various friends. She was very resistant to the idea of rehab and also resistant to going to AA. She is the type of person who is very proud and does not like to accept help and does not want to be told what to do. But she didn't want to go to jail either. So she went into a residential treatment program called Chrysalis, which is on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, and just recently ''graduated''. She told me that it really turned her life around, and that she came to understand herself for the first time. It seems like they really addressed the underlying problems that made her drink too much, and showed her how to deal with life. It was very strict but also very supportive. A lot of people there are poor, and most of the other people there had been to jail at least once. It is not a fancy place, but it seems like they are on the right track. You should be able to find it with google. Good luck to your friend. Anon
I received the following from my daughter (who has 5 yrs sobriety) and is active in the AA recovery help community: I myself don't know about free residential programs in the bay area. what your friend could do is attend an AA mtg, and share with the group that he is looking for a free residential program and any suggestions are welcome. I can guarantee more than one person in the room will approach him after the meeting with advice. joan

Support group for parent of teen in residential treatment

June 2006

Is there a routinely scheduled suppport group for parents of teens in residential treatment? I'm interested in joining a group in Marin or San Francisco. parent of RTC teen


I believe that David Heckenlively, MFT runs such a group. He is in Mill Valley and Walnut Creek. Andy

Teen support group for marijuana abuse?

May 2006

My son is 17, an excellent student, accomplished musician, popular, and an all round excellent kid. However, according to him, he is using more marijuana than he should. He has agreed to join a support group for teens trying to reduce or stop their use of grass. Does anyone know of such a group or a therapist who runs such groups east or west of the tunnel? Concerned parent


Narcotics or Marijuana anonymous would be great for your son. There are some meetings at The Gilman - www.924gilman.org/ - in Berkeley that are very oriented towards younger people. My daughter who is 15 loves going to NA meetings at The Gilman anon
If you have Kaiser, they have a program for substance abuse that sounded good. Look on their website. There is also NA, you might have to search for a teen meeting. As you might know, they are a 12 step program same as AA. I went through something like this with my younger daughter, she was not into it enough for an out-patient program through Thunder Road, but that is also an option. If you have insurance call them about it as it's quite expensive. My daughter ended up having an epiphany of sorts on her own and decided then and there to give it up. It's great that your son is talking to you about it and is asking for help. I wonder if his school has any resources? You might also look on the web about groups specifically for pot smokers. Sorry I can't be of more help. Good Luck anon
My son has had a good experience going to the Narcotics Anonymous meeting Wednesday nights (9:00pm) at the Gilman. He's 16 and has spent a year sober after going through a difficult year drinking, smoking marijuana and doing assorted other drugs. The Wednesday night meeting is usually attended by a younger group than the usual NA or AA meeting. The Gilman is a music venue on week-ends (and ironically is the site of a lot of his previous drugging and drinking) and has Monday and Wednesday night NA meetings. It's in Albany on Gilman across the street from the Pyramid Brewery. We also benefitted from the out-patient and in-patient services of ThunderRoad , but if your son is interested in quitting on his own NA may be enough support for him. Best of Luck another teen mom

Teen with bipolar disorder and meth addiction

January 2006

I am close to a bright 19 year old young man who has recently been dual-diagnosed with the above. He has Kaiser coverage, was hospitalized for a few days with symptoms of psychosis, then discharged on three psychotropic medications for the bipolar diagnosis. He attended an outpatient group briefly, but felt that the other young people were much sicker than he (and it sounds like he's right), and stopped going. He stopped one of the meds without consulting his psychiatrist, and just changed from a Solano County Kaiser to Oakland Kaiser. He reports having finally seen a psychiatrist who (he reports) told him to ''take [his] meds and [he'll] either relapse or not''. No referral for any other kind of help. No mention of the chemical dependence issues.

Meanwhile, I've been reading a very good book for people with bipolar disorder and their families which emphasizes structure, support and information of all kinds, as well as a working relationship with health care providers. I've given him the book, and he felt encouraged upon reading around in it, so what felt like a rebuff at Kaiser was hard for him.

Personally, I feel that the mental health diagnosis has to be adequately addressed before we have a shot at dealing with the substance abuse issue. He denies active meth use at this time, but is smoking pot. And I don't know whether to believe that he's not using meth.

Does anyone have experience dealing with Kaiser around these two diagnoses? Must we have a fundraiser to see if he can get help privately? His parents, while concerned, have their hands somewhat tied due to Kaiser's confidentiality rules, and do not have the cash it would take to get private care. The young man has such a high anxiety level that he can only work 4 hours per day and sometimes not even that. Thanks for any help you'll offer. Anon.


The combination of bipolar disorder and stimulants is a ticket to disaster. Even traditional antidepressants, in the absence of mood-stabilizing drugs, can cause bipolar disorder to worsen irreversibly.

The key to successful treatment of bipolar disorder is pharmacologic therapy (drugs). A mood stabilizer such as Lithium, Depakote (or one of the other anticonvulsants found to be effective) is vital, and psychotherapy (''talk therapy'') is generally ineffective (and in many cases actually harmful) until the patient is controlled medically with the drugs.

Resistance to the medication regimen is common among sufferers (because the drugs tend to moderate the ''highs'' of the disorder), and it often takes months before the proper medication regimen is achieved. Also, patients with bipolar disorder should be managed by a psychopharmacologist, a psychiatrist (M. D.) with special training and experience in the area.

I am involved in several Lists for the ''significant others'' (including parents) of persons with bipolar disorder and can be e-mailed directly (see address below) for more information. Also, I would suggest surfing: www.bpso.org for additional information and links. Robert


In response to Anon, and the 16 year old with methamphetamine issues and bipolar. I work for Kaiser, and have been in the mental health field for 25 years. It would be very hard for anyone to give advice on this type of situation without a LOT more information which of course is inappropriate in this venue. There are so many issues at play here. One is the substance abuse issue. Often, a person can be misdiagnosed in the midst of substance abuse.

The symptoms of bipolar, or depression/anxiety can mimic the side effects of meth/pot/alcohol. So, I think the substance abuse issue should be dealt with WHILE dealing with the possible bipolar. While it is certainly not impossible, I find it hard to believe that a psychiatrist would overlook or dismiss the substance abuse issue. And marijuana is mentioned in your letter as a side issue, but it is not benign. I suggest that this family meet again with either the psychiatrist OR another psychiatrist at Kaiser. I have been there 3 years, but have had Kaiser coverage for many more and find it a very good health care service. Going outside of Kaiser is going to be expensive and you will not find the continuum of care that a place like Kaiser has to offer. Did the parents meet with the doctor as well? How much family involvement was advised?

So many unanswered questions for a very tough situation. Hopefully, this can be worked out through the teen's current Kaiser coverage. I have a very good friend who works only with children and adolescents. He charges over 1,000.00 for the initial work up. Granted, he takes several hours to days, and gathers much information from all sources, but it's quite expensive. Child and adolescent psychiatry is a sub specialty and it's tough to find a really good psychiatrist with openings....they are in great demand. Kaiser has many. Diane


A great person at Kaiser Oakland is Kitsy Schoen. She coordinates support and educational groups that may relate to what your friend is going through. Her number is 752-7983. I wish you the best, Anon.
My son attended Kaiser's Chemical Dependency Program for teens, New Bridge's youth outpatient program in Walnut Creek, had an intake at Thunder Road in Oakland, so I have some experience with the local options for addicted youth. He said the same thing as your teen: he didn't want to go, the others are sicker than him, they have different problems, etc. He didn't like AA meetings or NA meetings either. I think the Kaiser psychiatrist may be saying that mostly, addicted teenagers are hard to treat, the success rate is low and so unpredictable. Long term residential programs often work, but who can afford that? Your support, and your sense to look for treatment for the bipolarity is important. A nonprofit I now work with, Options Recovery Services in Berkeley, is a free outpatient substance abuse center for people 18 and over. Many of the clients are dually diagnosed (have a diagnosis of addiction combined with trauma, psychosis, or bipolarity), though you don't know until someone stops using if there is in fact an underlying mental illness, because drug use can both cause the symptoms of it, and certainly masks it. In January they opened a clinic to provide free therapy by marriage and family therapists and medication monitoring to help those in the substance abuse program. The success has been amazing. Relapse rates have declined, and people who were really suffering found ways to stop self medicating to try to stop their mood swings, anxiety, etc. I don't know if he would be interested in this program (the average age is older than he is), but if he is, the person to call is Dr. Davida Coady, who was recognized this year for all she has done for the city. Tom Gorham runs the clinic, is an expert in dual diagnosis treatment, and may be able to talk to him. And you, you can do the footwork, but try to let go of the outcome. After 4 years of putting me on an emotional roller coaster, my son moved out of Berkeley at age 17 and finally took control of his life: is living on his own, finishing high school, and is doing great. I don't think it was anything that I did; it was his choice to extricate himself from the stress of the city and the social scene that kept him in that spiral of use and abuse. Bless you. Anon

Son, 16, drinks to get drunk - need suggestions

September 2005

I need advice on alcohol abuse and boys. I have a 16 year old who drinks to get drunk, but denies he has a problem. I am looking for programs, ideas or suggestions on what to do. Thanks


First I want to say my heart goes out to you and I hope you get a lot of good ideas to help your teen. In the same email in which you posted there was an event listed called: Workshop: Troubled Teens & Families. I noticed that Dr. Joel Crohn is one of the workshop contacts and I would guess, leaders. He is really good. At least call him and talk to him. He's good with teens and with families. He has a private practice too with an office in Kensington and one in Marin. The phone number that was listed for him was 415/456-1166. Maybe this workshop would give you ideas and contacts. I wish you the best. another mom
Our family is currently in the intensive outpatient program (IOP) at Thunder Road in Oakland (510-653-5040) after discovering our teenager was heavily using marijuana. They offer free assessments there...which may be an intervention to choose if you want an outside look at your son's situation from folks who are experienced (and to give him a strong message).

There's also a very good book called ''Teens Under the Influence'' (sorry, can't find the book or the author at this moment)...but I got it from Barnes and Noble.com or Amazon.com) which has an excellent summary of everything about teens and drugs...what to look for, what to do, etc. Good luck. anonymous


In response to the person with the 16-year-old with severe alcohol and boy problems, I had great luck with Island View in Utah. My daughter was there for 8 months, going in when she was 16. She is now 22, sober, and self supporting. I highly recommend Al-Anon (support for families of problem drinkers) for the mother as well.

22-year-old son is in Colombia freebasing cocaine

August 2005

I found out a month ago that my 22 year old son was in Colombia freebasing cocaine-- which I have been told is very addicting. He was there for about six weeks. Before that, I know he used cocaine occasionally, that he smoked marijuana from age fourteen and smokes cigarettes.

Last week he partially acknowledged he had a problem with the cocaine, and I was able to persuade him to leave Colombia. He's due to arrive here soon and I need as much information and support as I can get--to make an assessment of his needs and find out what kind of treatment he might need.

He also does not have health insurance, but we would go into debt to pay for treatment if necessary.

For the next step, I would greatly welcome recommendations for organizations, treatment facilitie, programs, therapists, groups, websites, etc. that might be helpful. Thank you so much. terrified mom


What I recommned is that you have an evaluation done by a competent M.D or Psychologist who specializes in addiction. These usually take a few sessions and you can ask that a family appt be included at the end so that you can all hear the recommendations ''from the horse's mouth'' at the same time. The professional can then give you advice on what level of treatment, facilities ( if needed), self-help participation etc he/she recommends.

The professionals I have absolutely 500% confidence in who practice in SF are: David Smith, MD, at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic (he sees a small number of private patients thru his home office) Peter Banys, MD ( on California St near Laurel Heights) Kathleen Unger, MD ( on Van Ness St)

A sidelight is that the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic has a solid program in the Haight in SF which is free. That might be an option if you are willing to pay for the BART and MUNI.

In the East Bay, I know Dr Robert (Bob) Matano PhD. who's office is in Rockridge. Though I'm not as personally familiar with his work, I think he'd probably do a good job. He headed up the Stanford Substance Abuse program for many years.

In the long term, since addiction is a chronic, relapsing illness (like diabetes), consider getting your son a Kaiser Permanente policy that covers substance abuse as they have a really extensive and good substance abuse clinic (Martinez and SF).

I recommend that you consider going with the best for your initial set of recomendations as it might become a road map of sorts for many years to come.

If, along the way, you find that you and your other family members are arguing or disagreeing on what to do for your son or dealing with a lot of guilt (neither of these is unusual) there is a fabulous Social Worker in SF who will see your family (with or without your son there) once or a few times to work with your issues and help you find common ground. His name is something like Maurice Kamens (Kamen, Kamin, Kamins) and his office is on Divsadero (I think). He's a great resource

Best of luck to all of you at this difficult time. JM


I know what you are going through. It is frightening and let me tell you, it is lonely. I found it so difficult to get help and my child was 16. I also found that between waiting lists and cost of programs, there was not really anything effective out there that could get us help as fast as we needed it.

Finally, out of desperation I took my child to ''Hogar CREA'' in the Dominican Republic. Of course I'll never know for sure, but I could easily believe that they saved my child's life.

This was about 8 years ago. I will tell you some good things about it. When I called, they said ''We'll help.'' I said but what about Visas, etc. they said, ''just come, we'll work it out''. We did and they did.

When we got there, we got in a Taxi. The driver asked where we were going. We said ''Hogar CREA''. ''That's a great place! My cousin went there. He's fine now.'' He then turned to my child and said ''You are so brave to come. Good for you. You are a good person. Don't worry. You'll be fine.'' And to me, he said ''What a good mother you are. You must love your child very much indeed to come all this way. Don't worry. We'll take care of her''.

And so it was. Everyone, absolutely everyone there had that attitude. On the street and in the Homes. There was no shame. No one looked at me and judged. There were no ''you are a bad parent'' looks. There were no ''you are a bad child'' looks for her. Everyone welcomed her with open arms. This was such a contrast with the treatment I got here. With the looks from co- workers, my friends, and parents of my child's friends.

I don't know if I've ever done anything harder than that in my life. Taking my child there, a place I'd never been before and leaving. But when I got home, I wept. Just wept. Because I knew he'd be alive the next day and the day after that.

Other good things. I could afford it. They charged what I could pay, and let me tell you, I gave them every cent I could.

Bad things: Well, it is far away (I travelled there about 5 times in the almost 2 years she was there. It is not too expensive and I stayed at a rooming house when I visited).

The phone bill.

The 2 year length of the program. (This is really the only way to treat addicts effectively).

But with all the visits, the phone bills, and the money I sent monthly to them and to her, it didn't come close to the 20K + other places here wanted for very short treatment programs with really high recidivism rates.

If your child doesn't speak Spanish - he will by the time he leave. But people there speak English. There were a few kids from New York and Florida.

They now have a web site: http://www.hogarcrea.org/ The contact information listed there is: Padre Billini # 505, Ciudad Nueva Tel. : (809) 689-4329 Email: direccioncrea [at] hogarcrea.net

Good luck. I've been where you are, my heart goes out to you. There is a light, it's just around the bend. Good mommy


Next month I will have 15 years clean and sober, my drugs of choice were heroin and cocaine(including freebase/crack- same thing really). My ex-husband was a recovering addict who 5 years ago started using drugs again and went to numerouse rehabs over the last few years(we had really good insurance through my job) but didn't get sober again until he ended up in the hospital for a month needing surgery and dialaysis(among other things) from his drug usage and I left him(he has been sober ever since- 2 years now). I am telling you this so that you know that I have first hand experience from both sides of the issue, also it is nice to know that addicts can achive long term sobriety.

The first thing that you need to know is that drug addiction is a disease. Major changes in your brain chemistry occur when you take drugs - especially ones like cocain and speed - that take a long time to go away. There have been studies in mice and rats showing that these changes can occur with the equivalent of one recriational dose of cocaine and can last over 2 months(I used to work for a biology lab that studied addiction as well). Also scientists believe that you cannot classify the addict's urge to do drugs as simply ''pleasure seaking'' or ''pain avoidance'' (as in withdrawal). It is much more complicated, so ''just say no'' doesn't work.

Your son may stop using when he gets back home to another environment where it may not be as plentifull - but coke is pretty easy to get in the US. If he doesn't stop, then he won't be able to, no matter how many rehabs he goes to, until he WANTS to stop. Usually people don't stop until it is to painful not to stop, me included. The best way, in my opinion, to get sober is also the cheapest: AA and NA. I also would suggest one-on-one coulseling, especially if you can find someplace that specializes in drug abuse and has a sliding scale fee.

Now this is the part that you probably don't want to hear- nobody does- The ONLY thing that you can do to help your son is to help yourself by either going to alanon, nar-anon, or counseling/therapy with someone who specializes in co-dependance. I would highly recomend going to alanon and/or nar-anon meetings and reading some of their literature. I like the ''Big Book'' and the ''12 Steps and 12 Traditions'' of AA, but some of the stories are very old fashioned since it was written in 1935. Narcotics Anonymouse has more modern and drug focused stories. The meetings and liturature will help you understand your son's problem and inform you on what you can expect from watching your son go through this very difficult and painful process and help you make healthy choices as to how you will react. It is almost more difficult to be the co-dependant because you have so liitle control on the outcome, you can only watch and hope and try not to hurt yourself or your son by feeding into the addiction yourself.

Please don't spend a lot of money sending him to rehab when he doesn't want to go- you might as well take $20k and burn it in the back yard for the good it will do. My ex would generaly start using again within the moth after leaving a rehab and it was just a waste. I have been in many group therapy sessions with other family members at various rehabs where the parents bemoan the enormose amounts of money spent on rehabs(They are incredibly expensive!) with no effect, and I think it is a common trap parents fall into.

You have to make your son take responsibility for his drug use and the problems that arise because of it(don't bail him out of anything!). ''Helping'' just makes it less painful for him and will make it take longer for him to be ready to quit. And when he is ready he will need to take responsibility for getting sober as well- that is the only way that you can know that he really wants it(the addict will tell you they want to get clean because they know thats what you want to hear and that it may make you help them).

Anyway alanon/nar-anon groups are safe places to get emotional support for going through this. It will help you stay strong when you need it. Try going to a meeting 2-3 times before deciding you don't like it and try going to a variety of meetings first to find one you feel comfortable in. Start going to meetings now, before your son comes home, to prepare yourself.

It is a very very difficult thing to go through, similar to having a loved one dying of cancer, but worse, because you can't help with out making there condition worse. Good luck and stay strong! anon


can intervention succeed? 15-year-old doesn't think he has a problem

January 2005

Our son has become involved with drugs and alcohol. All of his friends are also ''loadies''. I have spoken with two of their parents and they seem unable to intervene. We see a therapist weekly and are planning an assessment with a drug/alcohol program this week. Our concern is whether or not a program will succeed as long as we live in this area and all of his friends are here. He doesn't think he has a problem and none of his friends seem to think there is anything wrong with getting drunk or high -most of his friends are 15 like our son. Any success stories out there? Any experience with Thunder Road or New Bridges? worried mom


dear worried mom --

my son also drifted into drinking and drugs when he was 15. this was mostly with his school crowd at ECHS -- it did not seem to involve his ''old'' friends, at least at the beginning.

my son was always quiet in class, but very gifted, sweet and caring, had good friends and many interests. he was the last kid anyone would have picked as ''most likely to be in deep trouble.''

spring semester of his sophomore year, things began falling apart. he suddenly began getting terrible grades. we did not realize until after the semester was over that he had skipped dozens of classes -- 2 of his 3 teachers did not return our calls, and the school failed to tell us of his truancy. meanwhile, he was tearing up the house and being very abusive at home. in retrospect, i don't know how we put up with it, but at the time, we were trying to get by each day, scared and confused and alone.

we tried a family therapist first, focusing on his use and the problems it caused [especially between him and his dad]. we also switched him to a small private school in berkeley [where they at least called if he was in trouble]. those interventions weren't enough -- after 2 ER visits, 2 overnight runaways, and getting busted for paraphrenalia at his new school, he went to thunder road .

my son did great at the thunder road inpatient program, aside from being angry at being sent there. i think a lot of the wonderful staff, and appreciated the parental involvement their program offers. insurance only covered 30 days, and that wasn't enough.

he went to the outpatient follow-up program for 2 months, and we parents also participated twice weekly -- and then he was flunked out of the program, because he tested positive several times and was wasted at home several other times -- and we kept finding drugs, research about drugs, home-made alcohol, etc in his room. we later learned that to retaliate for sending him to rehab, our son decided to try everything he could get his hands on after he got out of inpatient. there was a third ER visit while he was in the outpatient program. it was a nightmare.

we finally went to an educational consultant, and he went to a therapeutic wilderness program out of state for 2 months [second nature, in utah]. he got clean, and our family started repairing itself -- even he agrees that program was excellent. since april, he has been at a 12 step boarding school, and he is a changed person -- we have a decent relationship, he is funny and smart again, he is alive and has a future.

in the early stages, we just kept thinking each dramatic awful thing was isolated -- we did not see how deep he was in trouble, and naturally, we were not hearing much truth from him. it is incredibly easy for kids to get alcohol, weed, mushrooms, cough tablets, ritalin, adderal, vicodan, methamphetamine, etc. -- my son even tested positive for PCP once. [especially places like telegraph ave., but other places locally, too. teen clubs like the gilman are NOT clean places.]

it broke our hearts to send our son away, but we had tried local options and they did not work. i don't know how we could have managed without the educational consultant, because there are a lot of places out there, and they aren't all good. since my son left, his doper ''crowd'' has broken up -- some arrested, some sent to boarding schools, some decided it wasn't fun anymore.

Thunder Road did give our son a foundation for work he did later. it gave my husband and me a LOT of support and education, which gave us strength for the next phase. but i suspect the kids who do best there are the ones ordered there by a court, for 9-12 months, because it takes a LONG time to really break the cycle.

it is too bad the other parents you have contacted are not willing to join forces, because we did learn that parents communicating makes a big difference. [that is a big part of why the ''old crowd'' broke up...] a lot of kids can experiment and not get in much trouble, but a lot of kids can't -- my kid could easily have killed himself or ended up in jail.

my take on the morality of interfering with experimentation is different than it was a few years ago. it's our JOB to snitch them off, restrict them, and keep them safe. and if we need help doing that, we need help -- it's important to find the right help. good luck to you, and all the other parents in a similar struggle. another mom


My daughter is 14 and, last year at King she began to hang out with kids I didn't feel were a good influence. They were in her eyes cooler and, more edgy than her past friends, they were involved in the cool music scene and that was very alluring in her eyes. Some of these kids were ''cutting'', drinking, and promiscuous.

While I know she had not started experimenting I knew that it was only a matter of time before she turned from observer to doer.

I told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to drop these friends (while I also explained why they were not the people I wanted her to associate with) and, that this was non-negotiable.

She could still say hi to them and, be friendly but, that hanging out was not going to happen, or I would pull her out of that school (and I was SERIOUS). I let her take her time to extracate herself from the friends, but monitored and, talked to her a lot about the process (keeping communication open is key).

Now, today she is in BHS and, has reaquainted herself with the older friends she looked over during her ''cool friend phase'', and has picked up some new friends at BHS. She still sees her old friends and is friendly to them (one of them also changed for the better and, is in the new crowd).

While I am not sure about the programs, or how they will work. I definitely think you need to remove your son's friends from his sphere of influence if, your son is going to do an about face and, stop dabbling in drugs.

Especially, since their parents are seemingly passive and, feel they can't help their own kids.

He needs to be made aware that getting into that drug culture now, will limit his choices in the future. And, that you are concerned about the road he has chosen.

I think that having many heart to hearts where you can bring to break down his wall (if he has one) and, get to the real issues will help (it did for me). But, I am a firm believer that you need to have real boundaries, and if your child crosses them then there will be consequences.

So, if he gets caught hanging out, he will suffer the consequence of whatever you have decided upon. Don't accept phone calls, take away his cell phone (if he has one) don't let his friends come over, or have him go to their house. Call the destination of where he says he's going so, you can make sure he is where he says he is. Let the other parents know you are doing this (maybe, it will inspire them).

Basically, monitor him, and let him know you are doing it. And, let him know he is responsible for his actions and, if he chooses to do certain things he is responsible...So, if he does A,B and C, then D, E and F will occur...Be serious and, negotiate on some smaller issues but, for the big issues you need to stick to it, and do not back down.

So, get him away from the friends, and impose some strict limits that if he crosses he will be responsible for the consequences that follow. Good Luck!! Authoritative Mom with clear boundaries


When my daughter was 14 we found her stash and it had ecstasy, adderal & pot so we called Thunder Road and went in immediately, with her, for an evaluation by a counselor. They separate the parents from young person and do an intake questionnaire orally with both parties. It's very serious and, I imagine somewhat intimidating for the young person. They recommended family therapy 4 or 5 evenings a week in a group therapy setting on their premises with frequent pee tests. It was really hardball and sent the message to her: you want to do drugs? OK, here's what happens in our family when you do drugs: we care and we're committed to your not doing them and cannot accomplish that on our own so will get help. She had been seeing a therapist who found it kind of overkill. We continued to send her to this therapist (very skilled and trusted by all involved) and were able to sort of avoid the TR and keep her in line. I think the evaluation scared her into compliance and so I found it to be a good tool at that level. She's been an excellent student since and created lots of opportunities for herself for college. I'm sure she experiments like they all do but she's a good, solid person whom I trust now. Anonymous
Regardless of whether your son thinks he has a drug problem or not, any 15 year old who is dabbling (or seriously involved in) drugs and/or alcohol DOES have a problem. New Bridge foundation is a great place, and I know several people who have successfully completed the program and remain clean to this day. However, successful rehab does have a lot to do with the kids willingness to take on the challenge, and a person in rehab really cannot successfuly rejoin the same friends they were once partying with without the very real possibliity they will relapse. However, I have seen several teens go through rehab, and choose to be friends with those who are supportive and who are non-users. Certainly your son knows a few people who aren't doing drugs or drinking alcohol who he could rekindle friendships with?

I would query, however, how are the other parents ''unable'' to handle the problem? They have 15 year old children, for *%b'