Growing acceptance of marijuana ends up putting teens into rehab center

2010-05-13T00:00:00Z Growing acceptance of marijuana ends up putting teens into rehab centerDIANE COCHRAN Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
May 13, 2010 12:00 am  • 

SHERIDAN — Marijuana is the drug of choice for teenagers who end up at Big Horn Mountain Recovery Center, a new residential treatment program for Wyoming and Montana adolescents.

The drug’s popularity has grown along with the medical-marijuana movement in Montana, where voters legalized the use of pot as medicine in 2004 and hundreds of marijuana dispensaries began cropping up earlier this year.

“When we’re teaching them the terrible impacts cannabis has on them, they say, ‘What do you mean it’s bad for me? It’s legal,’ ” said Rod Robinson, one of three owners of the recovery center. “Some of these kids have been high half their lives.”

Big Horn Mountain Recovery Center is a six-bed inpatient facility for 13- to 17-year-old girls and boys who are chemically dependent. Most of its patients are referred to treatment by a court.

Robinson, Jennifer Jones and Pamela Peldo opened the center in February. It has two sites in Sheridan — a restored Victorian home where the teens live and, two blocks away, another vintage house that serves as office and meeting space.

Jones, an addictions counselor, worked with adolescents on an outpatient basis before but had few places to refer young clients who needed intensive treatment.

At Big Horn Mountain Recovery, teens share bedrooms that look like rooms in a typical home, cook and eat together as a family and volunteer for a variety of community programs.

“We want to give back, but we want the kids to be tired at the end of the day,” Jones said.

In addition to spending time in counseling, the teens learn life skills and participate in an art program.

After marijuana, huffing “canned air” and taking someone else’s prescription pills are the most common behaviors that lead kids to the recovery center.

Canned air is used to clean computer keyboards and can be purchased at discount or office supply stores for $3.

Huffing, or inhaling, the air produces a sensation of lightheadedness similar to what a person feels just before fainting. It also can cause brain damage.

Big Horn Mountain Recovery Center uses a therapeutic method called “motivational interviewing,” which encourages patients to find their own solutions to problems rather than be told what changes they should make to their lives.

“It really focuses on what’s right with them rather than what’s wrong,” Peldo said.

Contact Diane Cochran at dcochran@billingsgazette.com or 657-1287.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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