The best way to help a troubled child is to help their PARENTS.

This website is dedicated to helping parents and caregivers of troubled children, teenagers, and young adults:

  • How to manage at home while caring for everything else
  • How to manage your child’s specific disorder
  • How to manage out in the world:  schools, mental health system, friends, family
  • Ways to care for yourself and the rest of the family.
  • Wisdom and stories from other parents’ experiences


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What to know for any child, any age, any disorder. Questions welcomed.
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Practical and sound information for those raising a troubled child


One-on-one support for parents

Margaret Puckette specializes in counseling parents of children with mental illnesses.

The mental health system does little to help parents–the most important people in a child’s life. Mental health providers tend to focus on the child as a separate individual who takes care of themselves and makes their own decisions.  They usually aren’t prepared or able to train parents in therapeutic techniques their child would benefit from at home.  Most don’t understand the needs of the family as a whole, or support them emotionally in the process.

From my own experience raising a mentally ill child, lack of knowledge and mental health support seriously hurt my ability to be a good parent. 

I’d ask professionals:  “What do you understand about my child that I should know?  What works that I should replicate in the home?  How will the illness unfold over time?  What should we plan for?  What do we do in a crisis?  I received no answers to these important questions!

It’s taken 20 years of committed study and communication with 100’s of parents and mental health professionals to gather facts and wisdom that help parents, regardless of their child’s behavioral problems.

—-The bad news is that disorders are often degenerative. As an illness progresses, it changes the child’s brain and then it’s harder to treat. Start now and stay with it!

—-The good news is that an early start and the right approach, can turn their life path around.

Have hope.

Feature article


What Does Marijuana Do To Your Child’s Brain?

is marijuana safe?It seems most adults think marijuana or cannabis is safe and harmless. The safety message seems justified, after all people have been using it for many years; it’s legal; and one of its chemicals, cannabidiol or CBD, has been shown to have medicinal properties.

Marijuana is not safe for the brains of children and young people

Marijuana/cannabis has a second chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC that interferes with brain maturation, and maturation ends in the mid-20’s.  Parents, the latest scientific research indicates that brain damage caused by THC can last a lifetime.

THC will cause or worsen cognitive and neurological problems in developing brains

The following are summaries of research and articles on the effects of marijuana/cannabis on children, adolescents, and young adults under age 25. Links are included when available. This list is being updated regularly as new studies are published.

Cannabis Use in Adolescence Associated With Poorer Mental Health Outcomes
E. Pond, PsychiatryAdvisor, November 2018

Prolonged cannabis use during adolescence is associated with poorer working memory, perceptual reasoning, and inhibitory control, according to study data published in The American Journal of Psychiatry. These effects may be more pronounced for cannabis compared with alcohol.”  Research results are “consistent with a neuroplastic and neurotoxic effect of cannabis on inhibitory control and working memory, in that increased within-year use and time-lagged use were each associated with cognitive impairments.”

Heavy marijuana use in adolescence appears to be worse for the brain than heavy alcohol use.

The dark side of marijuana
Vicki Aldous, Mail Tribune, November 2018

This is a detailed and well-researched article on the evidence that marijuana causes schizophrenic psychosis in young people, which includes ways to reduce risks.  “Researchers estimate 8 to 15 percent of cases of schizophrenia are caused by adolescent marijuana use,” says Dr. John Mahan, Jackson County Mental Health psychiatric medical director. “In other words, if no one was using cannabis, we’d have between 8 and 15 percent fewer cases of schizophrenia…” he says.  Laurel Madrone is the clinical manager of a psychiatric unit at Asante Medical Center in Medford, Oregon, she said “Young people with no history of mental illness themselves or in their families are experiencing delusions and hallucinations.”

Adolescent cannabis use alters development of planning, self-control brain areas
University of Illinois at Chicago, November 2018

Adolescent marijuana use may alter how neurons function in brain areas engaged in decision-making, planning and self-control. “Our evidence suggests that exposure to cannabinoids during adolescence alters brain maturation in the prefrontal cortex,” said Eliza Jacobs-Brichford, study lead author.  “Adolescence is a crucial time for fine-tuning the balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurons in the brain, which combine to control precise patterns of brain activity,” said Jamie Roitman, UIC associate professor of psychology and study co-author. “Substance use as a teenager thus has the potential to disrupt the normal developmental trajectory of the prefrontal cortex, with potentially long-term consequences for decision-making.”

How cannabis and cannabis-based drugs harm the brain 
Mouro, Ribeiro, Sebatião, and Dawson, Journal or Neurochemistry, August 2018

In a study on mice, results showed that “mice exposed for long-term to a specific cannabinoid had “significant memory impairments.”  Mice could not discriminate between a familiar and unfamiliar object.  “Brain imaging showed that the drug impairs function in key brain regions involved in learning and memory. Moreover, the long-term exposure to the drug impairs the ability of these regions to communicate with each other, suggesting that this underlies the negative effects of the drug on memory.”

Cannabis: It matters how young you start
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, May 18, 2018

girl smoking weed“Researchers find that boys who start smoking pot before 15 are much more likely to have a drug problem at 28 than those who start at 15 or after.”

“Educate kids early, in primary school, about the risks of starting pot smoking, especially now that the potency is much greater than it was in decades past and that public acceptance is being spurred by legalization in jurisdictions such as Canada” and several states in the U.S.  Explain the facts about how pot causes brain problems; sow mistrust in the pervasive messages that it is safe; avoid using pot yourself so as not to appear hypocritical.  Even if your child just postpones use for a few years, it’s still less problematic and less damaging to their brain.  They need every last brain cell.

Normal SPECT scan
Underside of normal brain.
teenage brain after heavy marijuana use
Brain of 18-year-old after 3 years of daily marijuana use. Holes are brain regions not receiving blood supply.

Americans’ view of marijuana is rosy, and unscientific 
Reuters, July 23, 2018

A nationally representative online survey of 16,280 U.S. adults found that many ascribe health benefits to marijuana or cannabis that haven’t been proven, researchers report in Annals of Internal Medicine.  “The American public has a much more favorable point of view than is warranted by the evidence,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Salomeh Keyhani of the University of California, San Francisco… Perhaps most concerning is that they think that it prevents health problems.”

  • “Keyhani suspects that a big part of the problem is that there is little, if any, regulation of cannabis advertising. “It’s a multi-billion dollar industry,” she said. “That’s big business.”**
  • “Another part of the problem is that Americans seem to conflate legality with safety…”

**Pharmaceutical companies once promoted their products as safe even when there was proof they were harmful.  New regulations in the U.S. now require that all advertisements include complete information about known side-effects.  This is not done with marijuana or cannabis.

Proof cannabis DOES lead teenagers to harder drugs
Daily Mail, London U.K., June 7, 2017

“The study of the lives of more than 5,000 teenagers produced the first resounding evidence that cannabis is a gateway to cocaine, amphetamines, hallucinogens and heroin.”  “Teenagers who regularly smoke cannabis are 26 times more likely to turn to other drugs by the age of 21.  It also discovered that teenage cannabis smokers are 37 times more linkely to be hooked on nicotine and three times more likely to be problem drinkers than non-users of the drug.”

Why do we so consistently underplay the links between cannabis and psychosis?
Patrick Cockburn, Co-author of “Henry’s Demons: Living With Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Story,” June 22, 2018

“What is really needed in dealing with cannabis is a “tobacco moment,” as with cigarettes 50 years ago, when a majority of people became convinced that smoking might give them cancer and kill them. In The Lancet Psychiatry, a study concludes that “the risk of individuals having a psychotic disorder showed a roughly 3 times increase in users of skunk** cannabis, compared with those who never used cannabis”.

“Mental health professionals have long had no doubts about the danger. Sir Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, said that studies showed that “if the risk of schizophrenia for the general population is about 1%, the evidence is that, if you take ordinary cannabis, it is 2%; if you smoke regularly you might push it up to 4%; and if you smoke ‘skunk’ every day you push it up to 8%”.

**”skunk” is a term used in Britain which refers to very high potency marijuana

Legal cannabis laws impact teen use
The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, NH, June 27, 2017

‘A new study has found that adolescents living in medical marijuana states with a plethora of dispensaries are more likely to have tried new methods of cannabis use, such as edibles and vaping, at a younger age than those living in states with fewer dispensaries. ” …As cannabis legalization rapidly evolves, in both medical and recreational usage, understanding the laws’ effect on young people is crucial because this group is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of marijuana and possesses an inherent elevated risk of developing a cannabis disorder.  …”One study in The Lancet Psychiatry concludes that “the risk of individuals having a psychotic disorder showed a roughly three times increase in users of skunk**-like cannabis, compared with those who never used cannabis”.

Marijuana Can Permanently Lower IQ in Teens
Duke University and King College (London), August 2012

boy smoking marijuana

Teens who regularly smoke marijuana are putting themselves at risk of permanently damaging their intelligence as adults, and are also significantly more likely to have attention and memory problems later in life, than their peers who abstained, according to a new study conducted by Duke University and London’s King’s College. This study is among the first to distinguish between cognitive problems the person might have had before using marijuana, and those that were caused by the drug.

The research found that adults who started smoking pot as teenagers and used it heavily, but quit as adults, did not regain their full mental powers. In fact, “persistent users” who started as teenagers suffered a drop of eight IQ points at the age of 38, compared to when they were 13.  Researchers noted that many young people see marijuana as a safer alternative to tobacco. A recent “Monitoring the Future” study found that, for the first time, more American high school students are using marijuana than tobacco. Lead researcher Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University, said, “Marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents.

The adolescent brain is more vulnerable to psychoactive drugs. When the young brain approaches physiological adulthood about the age of 24, psychoactive substances like THC are considered less harmful.

Cannabis use and later life outcomes.
Fergusson DM, Boden JM, Addiction;  Pages: 969-76;  Volume(Issue): 103(6), June 2008

The findings of this study were statistically significant. “Increasing levels of cannabis use at ages 14-21 resulted in lower levels of degree attainment by age 25, lower income at age 25, higher levels of welfare dependence, higher unemployment, lower levels of relationship satisfaction, and lower levels of life satisfaction.”

more marijuana side-effects

Risks of increasingly potent Cannabis: The joint effects of potency and frequency
Joseph M. Pierre, MD; Current Psychiatry. 2017 February;16(2):14-20

Cannabis at a young age (age <15 to 18) increases the risk of developing a psychotic disorder.  The accumulated evidence to date is strong enough to view the psychotic potential of Cannabis as a significant public health concern, especially a high-potency Cannabis (HPC) form of hash oil known as Cannabis “wax” or “dabs” that contains as much as 90% THC. Preliminary anecdotal evidence supports the plausibility of hyper-concentrated forms being more psycho-toxic than less potent forms.  Of great concern when it comes to teens, HPC comes in very appealing forms (baked goods, candy, and drinks).

Woody Harrelson quit; What happens to your body after a stoner quits smoking weed.
Expect the following if you child attempts to quit or quits marijuana, and give them lots of love and support!  Dr. Stuart Gitlow and Dr. Joseph Garbely explain what happens to them.

  • They miss and crave it at first
  • They get anxious
  • They feel feelings again
  • It’s going to be uncomfortable for months, even a year

Marijuana Use Linked with Poor Depression Recovery
J Affect Disord; ePub 2017 Feb 13; Bahorik, et al

Marijuana use is common and associated with poor recovery among psychiatry outpatients with depression a recent study found. Researchers evaluated 307 psychiatry outpatients with depression, and past-month marijuana use for a substance use intervention trial. They found:

  • Marijuana use worsened depression and anxiety symptoms; it also led to poorer mental health functioning and was associated with poorer physical health functioning.

How cannabis and cannabis-based drugs harm your brainmarijuana side effects
Francisco M Mouro,et al Chronic, intermittent treatment with a cannabinoid receptor agonist impairs recognition memory and brain network functional connectivity. Journal of Neurochemistry, 2018

“Long-term use of either cannabis or cannabis-based drugs impairs memory, say researchers. Their study has implications for both recreational users and people who use the drug to combat epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.” 

  • Long-term exposure impairs learning and memory in the animals
  • Brain imaging studies showed that the drug impairs function in key brain regions involved in learning and memory
  • Long-term exposure to the drug impairs the ability of brain regions involved in learning and memory to communicate with each other, suggesting that this underlies the negative effects of the drug on memory

Keeping Teenagers Safe In Vehicles:  Alcohol use is down but marijuana use is up
O’Malley, P. & Johnson, American Journal of Public Health. Nov. 2013, Vol 103, No. 11.

blood shot eye 2Driving accidents remain the number one cause of mortality among American teenagers. Alcohol use is often involved, and more recently, distracted driving as a result of cell phones is a contributor. A recent analysis has found that drinking and driving has decreased among teenagers, but “using marijuana and driving has increased.”  In this longitudinal study, a sample of 22,000 12th grade students from high schools across the country were questioned over a ten-year period, from 2001-2011. They showed an increase over the 10-year period in either being the driver or passenger of a driver who had just used marijuana. Specifically, 28% reported doing so within the past two weeks.  Marijuana use can impact drivers as much as alcohol.

Link Between Cannabis Use and Psychosis Onset at a Younger Age
Ana Gonzales MD, Santiago Apostol Hospital in Vitoria, Spain, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. August 2008

Researchers found a strong and independent link between cannabis use and the onset of psychosis at a younger age, regardless of gender or the use of other drugs.  The link is related to the amount of cannabis used.  The findings showed a significant gradual reduction in the age at which psychosis began that correlated with an increased dependence on cannabis.

marijuana and brain aging
Credit: Daniel G. Amen

Two articles from this blog

Marijuana is Uniquely Dangerous for Troubled Teens
www.raisingtroubledkids.com, July 12, 2017

“Marijuana’s effect on adolescents is more serious than many realize, especially for those with behavioral disorders.  This is no exaggeration; marijuana can lead to psychosis and long-term cognitive impairment for your troubled child.  Numerous recent research studies show that marijuana has a more damaging effect on the young brain than is generally understood.”

Marijuana and Psychosis in Teens
www.raisingtroubledkids.com, May 23, 2010

It’s a myth that marijuana is safe.  While the chemical CBD (Cannabidiol) has proven benefits for certain physical ailments, the chemical THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) has a profound effect on adolescents, especially those with psychiatric vulnerabilities, and its use can lead to psychosis and debilitating long-term cognitive impairment.”

teen with bloodshot eyesMarijuana Use, Withdrawal, and Craving in Adolescents (summary)
Kevin M. Gray, MD, Assistant Professor in the youth division of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

Using marijuana once per week or more during adolescence is associated with a 7-fold increase in the rate of daily marijuana use in young adulthood.  Cannabis dependence increases the risk factors for impaired driving and delinquent behavior.  Chronic use is associated with impaired immune function, respiratory illnesses, cognitive problems, and motivational impairment. 

Frequent marijuana use during adolescence appears to increase the risk of subsequent development of anxiety and depressive disorders The prevalence of cannabis abuse is 2 to 3 times greater among adolescents who have major depression.  Also linked in both directions: conduct disorder predicts marijuana and other substance use, while early-onset marijuana use predicts conduct disorder.


Withdrawal symptoms are a constellation of emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms that include anger and aggression, anxiety, decreased appetite and weight loss, irritability, restlessness, and sleep difficulty, which result specifically from withdrawal of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC.  Less frequent but sometimes present symptoms are depressed mood, stomach pain and physical discomfort, shakiness, and sweating.  Onset of withdrawal symptoms typically occurs within 24 hours of cessation of THC, and symptoms may last days to approximately 1 to 2 weeks.


Marijuana craving occurs when teens get cues associated with marijuana (e.g. sight or smell of the substance, films of drug-taking locations, and drug-related paraphernalia).   Exposure to cues leads to robust increases in craving, along with modest increases in perspiration and heart rate.  Cue reactivity can predict drug relapse.

From the National Institute on Drug Abuse

marijuana infographic