Marijuana Addiction among Dutch Teenagers

Marijuana Addiction among Dutch Teenagers

An increasing number of Dutch teenagers are becoming addicted to marijuana. Many of them begin smoking pot regularly around age 13, and the habit develops into dependency and results in being admitted to a rehab clinic.
Rob Kievit of Radio Netherlands reports that young smokers are getting into conflicts with their parents, dropping out of school, and getting into trouble with the law as they often steal to finance their habit.

A survey by NOS public TV found that in the past year, 370 teenagers diagnosed with a cannabis addiction were staying in three specialized rehab clinics. Three more treatment centers are being built to cope with the rising number of young addicts. Since 2002 the number has increased fourfold.

One of the reasons behind this change is the THC content of the drug, which keeps increasing as cultivators crossbreed powerful variants of the plant. THC is the active ingredient of cannabis. Figures from Jellinek Clinic show that “netherweed” contained 8.6 percent of THC in 2000, having almost doubled to 15.2 percent in 2002, making the drug much stronger.

Marijuana use is widespread in the Netherlands. Statistics Netherlands, the government statistics office, found in August 2009 that half of all adult men between 20 and 25 had smoked at least one joint; one-third of women of the same age had also smoked at least once. One in ten of the women and twice as many men were still smoking regularly, the statistics show.

“Some of the problem cases smoked their first joint at age nine, in the school playground,” youth worker Eric de Vos told NOS. “The majority of cannabis users are taking the drug for a reason, as a sort of self-medication to fall asleep easily, to forget misery or quarrels in the family, or problems at school. It’s no longer innocent. When those kids are received into the clinic, they are often suffering from psycho-social problems.”

At the Bauhuus in northern Groningen, one of the three clinics, teenagers aged between 13 and 18 are submitted to a marijuana addiction treatment program lasting between six and nine months.

“I used to smoke seven or eight joints a day, which is quite a lot at my age,” clinic inmate Lisa (16) told NOS TV. “I also drank a lot, but my main addiction was cannabis. My parents divorced when I was thirteen, and I couldn’t cope with that. I supressed my grief by smoking pot. I wasn’t able to kick the habit, because it is more addictive than many people think. It makes you very indolent, you don’t go to school or to your sports clubs anymore, you quarrel at home and become very impolite and disrespectful. Your personality changes.”

Re-learning social skills is central to life in the clinic. The teenagers learn how to hold their own in a group, and how to prevent themselves from relapsing into addiction. They are taught how to deal with emotions, which were suppressed while they were using drugs. Family therapy involving the addicts’ family members is also offered, and sports and education are part of the program.

The rules are strict in the clinic, and there is around-the-clock supervision. Supervisors not only stand by to help, but they are also making sure the rules are respected. The children are not allowed to take any drugs, have sexual relationships, or use violence. Anyone who breaks a rule is ejected from the clinic. You can only return if you accomplish a number of assignments.

Treatment in the clinic is deemed a success if both the addiction and a solution has been found for the underlying problems, such as having addicted friends or having a dysfunctional relationship with one’s parents. After the treatment program ends, patients will continue to receive guidance and support.

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