Posted below are the results of a survey from 102 respondents out of 200 attendees who gathered in Chevy Chase, MD for a seminar called THE TRUTH ABOUT MARIJUANA, sponsored by four treatment centers: Caron, MARC, Ashely and Kolmac. The seminar was aimed at families and health care professionals who want to know more about the effects of marijuana and its growing toxicity in a milieu in which marijuana has been dangerously under-researched, while racing ahead with legalization, driven by commercial marketing. The keynote speaker was Ben Cort, author of Weed Inc: The Truth About the Pot Lobby, THC, and the Commercial Marijuana Industry; followed by a panel and Q/A with Dr. Robert DuPont, Dr. Susan Weiss, Dr. George Kolodner, Dr. Greg Hobelmann, and Kate Appleman.

83% attended to learn more about marijuana’s impact on mental health. Nearly 60% believe that marijuana should be referred to as THC; 65% believe their friends and family have no idea how potent THC is. And 91% believe that there is not enough public information to make informed choices about legalization.

The biggest takeaway was learning from Ben Cort that weed has gone from 1.4% THC content to 30% THC content.

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M E E T I N G S & R E A D I N G S

MD/DC Support Groups

Here is a list of support groups in the MD/DC area

VA/DC Support Groups

Here are support groups in the VA/DC area

Reading List

A Reading List put together by Sarah McDade



On Saturday March 30th over 200 people gathered in Chevy Chase, MD for a seminar called THE TRUTH ABOUT MARIJUANA, sponsored by four treatment centers: Caron, Ashley, MARC, and Kolmac. I instigated this event in part because many people in meetings in the DC/VA/MD area struggle with the consequences of family members being heavy weed users; while believing that weed can’t possibly be a serious addictive, psychotropic drug ("it’s only marijuana…"). Wishing to dispel the idea that marijuana is as harmless today as it was thirty years ago, and believing these families need validation and support in equal measure to families with opioid addicts, I felt an event like this would help everyone in the community better understand what we are dealing with in the face of legal, psychological, medicinal, commercial and recreational impact. 

Nearly half the attendees were professionals - therapists, doctors, psychiatrists who do not work in the field of addiction - who wanted to know more about what to tell their patients, from teenagers to middle aged people to pregnant women who are using marijuana. ASL services were provided as requested by therapists who do not hear, who have patients struggling with addiction who do not hear. 

The event was opened by the captivating Ben Cort, author of Weed Inc, who delivered a 90 minute talk about everything we thought we knew (but don’t) about marijuana today. Ben Cort kept everybody spellbound and upbeat. Following that, Sam Bierman of MARC moderated a panel of some of the top experts on the subject in the US, including Dr. Susan Weiss, Kate Appleman, Dr. Greg Hobelmann, Dr. Robert DuPont, and Dr. George Kolodner.

A few takeaways from the seminar included the fact that marijuana today in no way resembles anything like the marijuana of yesteryear. To simplify, it’s the relation of CBD to THC that determines the high triggered by THC. The greater the differential of CBD to THC, the greater the high, because the CBD ‘neutralizes' THC. So the highs from the 70s, 80s, 90s had ~ 1-4% THC but today they are peaking at over 30% THC - a dangerous level. When users get high today, they have a psychotropic experience that in no way resembles highs of past decades. 

Instagram post from @marylandaddictionrecovery with the panel’s contributors, including Ben Cort.

In effect Ben Cort said that there is no point conjuring a rolled joint as the habit. The delivery methods are super sophisticated and often undetectable including in schools. More to the point, one might refer to the habit as THC use, since delivery is often in wax, oil, or dust but not weed in rolling paper. Ben Cort also discussed the more extreme ways THC is being infused in everyday products in Colorado where it’s legal, such as toothpaste, shampoo and body lotion (which gets you very high). 

While medicinal arguments for marijuana legalization are rampant across the media, not enough attention is paid by media to the whole story, including the impact of recreational marijuana on mental health, particularly in the young. In short, commercialization is pushing legalization rapidly forward in a trillion dollar business. Research on mental health impact has been sparse for decades, due to marijuana’s classification as a Schedule One drug.

Marijuana products in states where it is legal are aggressively marketed to the young population so they get addicted earlier and become customers for life. ER visits in Colorado are spiking. The relationship between psychosis and schizophrenia and marijuana were laid out in the talk. Withdrawal symptoms which can go on for over a month, were also described, confirming THC/marijuana as an addictive substance

Below are a few links that relate to Ben Cort’s talk and the panel. If you have comments or feedback, welcome!

Let’s Talk About Marijuana: A mother’s opening remarks

Delivery Methods, Types, Toxicity

Man Passing Out on THC

National Institute of Drug Abuse Information

Weed, Inc: The Truth About the Pot Lobby, THC, and the Commercial Marijuana Industry by Ben Cort

Weed 101 calculator from the LA Times: How much is too much?

Saturday’s Panel Discussion on Impact of Marijuana:

- Dr Susan Weiss of the National Institute of Drug Addiction (NIH)

- Kate Appleman Sr. Clinical Director of Men’s Treatment at Caron

- Dr. Greg Hobelmann Chief Medical Officer of Ashley Addiction Treatment

- Dr. Robert DuPont Fifty year career with American policy towards drugs 

- Dr. George Kolodner Addiction Psychiatrist and founder of Kolmac

Signed, Harriet


For anyone looking for a therapist when addiction is involved, working with someone who understands addiction and the unique needs of the patient and family is essential to getting effective treatment. Sarah McDade has personally interviewed the therapists in the DC/MD/VA area who are on this list. One person who she has not met but who was recommended by Robyn Brickell who is on the list, is Denise Tordella.

LET’S TALK ABOUT MARIJUANA, Event in DC area March 30, 2019

Do you suspect your son or daughter may be smoking weed; possibly on a daily basis? Do you know that many young people who self-medicate are doing so due to underlying anxiety or depression? What can you say to them, when we are hearing that it's legal and it's medicinal and it has the potential to do good....? 

Marijuana is on the verge of being legalized, yet the deficit is profound when it comes to scientific research. Rapid commercialization coupled with a lack of regulations paves the way for companies to add addictive components to an already addictive substance. There are trillions of dollars to be made and the cigarette industry is a stellar model. Today's weed is more powerful than the stuff we knew in the 70’s and 80’s; it can trigger psychosis and once that happens, the brain doesn't always switch back.  

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A group of local parents, professionals and treatment centers want to start an open discussion about what’s happening. Therefore on March 30th in the DC/MD/VA area the first-ever event of its kind, called THE TRUTH ABOUT MARIJUANA will take place. 

Questions about the laws, medical needs, commercial interests, addictive qualities, impact on adolescent brains, potential psychotic disorders, and how we need to change the narrative will be openly addressed by a panel of researchers, doctors, and treatment specialists. A robust Q/A will occur and there will be a break for coffee, food and meeting others.  Please register now for this unique event to learn more about what our nation is getting into. Please share the links far and wide. Thank you!


Anita Gadhia-Smith is a therapist with offices in DC and Bethesda, who specialises in addiction and family issues. Highly recommended for couples who need to get on the same page and for anyone who needs to shift their thinking in therapy from "why?" to "how do I move forward?" 

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For mothers whose sons or daughters are in active addiction, Sandra Swenson shares her journey in this little book of meditations. Sandra will be speaking in Bethesda MD and Vienna, VA in November. Please get in touch for more information. Her memoir, The Joey Song, tells the heart-wrenching story of her family's struggle with her son when his addiction shattered their idyllic world. 

Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers With Addicted Children

Here is a wonderful list of online resources called SOBER COURAGE. It is very comforting because you don't have to leave home to connect with their wide range of helpful and supportive websites. Perhaps start with reading Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, who celebrates her 29th anniversary of being sober. 

Dr. Natalie Smith is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist located in North Springfield, VA.

Dr. Smith has been in private practice since 2004. Recovering from alcoholism and/or emotional eating are a specialty.  Whether the client is the addict or a family member or friend, the dynamics affect everyone.  Dr. Smith utilizes a very personable approach keeping you in the here-and-now while drawing on the past to build the wisdom for making better choices and decision in your present life.  We are of mind, body, and spirit.  Dr. Smith taps into all three of these human elements to maximize the potential of full self-awareness.  Interventions such as identifying the triggers to negative thoughts, hypnotherapy, meditation, and interactive role-playing a few options to help the clients understand themselves.  To ensure the right fit, Dr. Smith offers a free consultation for up to 15 minutes, either by phone or at her office.  

Dr. Natalie Smith, tel. 703-731-4581


Jennifer Alfert, ICGC-II, MS, IMH of Jennifer Alfert Consulting LLC

Jennifer Alfert is a therapist specializing in addictive disorders, behavioral/process addictions, problem gambling, personality issues and helping patients re-integrate into society once treatment ends. With over a decade of experience in the field,  Jennifer focuses on the entire family system. She believes that without a clear understanding of the family, it is difficult to target and hone in on crucial generational themes required to identify the underlying problems. Jennifer works with her clientele to achieve success by developing a strong, trusting foundation and creating hand-tailored assignments, as well as short and long-term goals. Jennifer believes that by empowering and challenging her clientele rather than enabling them, each has the opportunity to work to their capability rather than their potential to reach desired outcomes. Jennifer works closely with many reputable and ethical treatment centers in the Boca Raton/Delray Beach area, as well as nationally. This is to ensure when a higher level of care is warranted, Jennifer is able to recommend numerous options to any family in need. 

Jennifer is an Internationally Certified Gambling Counselor; #1013; International Gambling Certification Board 2010. Jennifer is certified to treat Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding; The Shulman Center, Franklin MI 2012. Jennifer holds her Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling; Springfield College; 2009; IMH #14775.

For additional information:  

Jennifer Alfert Consulting LLC, 4400 N. Federal Highway, Suite 210-24, Boca Raton, FL 33431, 561-374-2068

Recommending a Great Therapist in DC Area, submitted by EBS

George Young is an outstanding local therapist who has helped many Caron families; and he is very knowledgable about Caron Treatment Centers and their philosophies. Here is his website and contact information:

George Young, Outpatient Therapist & Practice Administrator,
7620 Little River Turnpike, Suite 403, Annandale, Virginia 22003 | 703.552.8188

"I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with thirty-five years of experience in the mental health and substance abuse field working with adolescents, young adults, adults, and families in a variety of settings. My areas of specialty include substance abuse, depression, stress, anxiety, anger, relationships and adjustment issues."

The Nikki Perlow Foundation

Our mission is to help young adults conquer the disease of drug and alcohol addiction and succeed in long-term recovery. We do this by providing financial, emotional and logistical support throughout their journey. We also provide education tied to awareness and prevention of substance abuse while striving to eliminate the stigma associated with the disease of addiction. 

Carol writes that she has taken many notes on these four books. She also uses daily readings from Families Anonymous (FA), Al-Anon, and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA).




IT TAKES A PARENT (How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids- and What to Do about It) by Betsy Hart recommended by Caron, Pa.

Recommendations and comments by MM - good therapists and good reading

Brickel and Associates in Alexandria, VA

IT TAKES A FAMILY - by Debra Jay. This is a cooperative approach to lasting sobriety.

BEAUTIFUL BOY - by David Sheff  


STITCHES: A HANDBOOK OF MEANING, HOPE AND REPAIR by Annie LaMott. This book is not about addiction but about life. However Annie LaMott is in recovery. I love all of her work and find her to have amazing insight.  Also, very funny.

Powerful memoirs

Broken – William C. Moyers
Moments of Clarity – Christopher Kennedy Lawford
Second Chances - Gary Stromberg and Jane Merrill
Guts – Kirsten Johnson
The Harder They Fall (celebrities) - Stromberg and Merrill
Symptoms of Withdrawal – Christopher Kennedy Lawford
An Addict in the Family – Beverly Conyers
We All Fall Down – Nic Sheff
Moments of Clarity – Christopher Kennedy Lawford

Understanding the Disease - Brain Change Mechanics

Recovering My Kid – Dr. Joseph Lee
Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You – Charles Rubin
Clean – David Sheff
Now What? An Insider’s Guide to Addiction and Recovery – William C. Moyers
Recover to Live:  Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction – Lawford
How Al-Anon Works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics – Al Anon Family Groups

Good Words to Read and Reread While the Addict is Getting Help

Recovering My Kid – Dr. Joseph Lee
Everything Changes – Beverly Conyers
Helping Your Chemically Dependent Teenager Recover - Peter R. Cohen

Positive Recover Reading

What Addicts Know - 10 Lessons from Recovery to Benefit Everyone – Lawford
Recovery Literature is also available at the gift shop at the Unity Club on Broad St. in Falls Church and at Al Anon meetings. 

Books, podcasts, and blogs - and why she chose them - are submitted by Bernadette

Books on the effects of addiction on the family, written by parents 

STAY CLOSE: A MOTHER'S STORY OF HER SON'S ADDICTION by Libby Cataldi - The book description writes: “This is not a book about how to save a child. It is a book about what it means to stay close to a loved one gripped by addiction.”  It was the first book I read and my reason for staying close (detaching with love) to Jeff.

THE LOST YEARS: SURVIVING A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER'S WORST NIGHTMARE by Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry - This book is written by both the mom and the daughter so you see both sides; the manipulations, the enabling, the struggles of both the addict and the mom, how each reaches their bottom and how recovery for both begins.

ADDICT IN THE FAMILY: STORIES OF LOSS, HOPE AND RECOVERY by Beverly Conyers - This is another good book that chronicles the family journey in the addiction process.




Books on understanding addiction


BEYOND ADDICTION: HOW SCIENCE AND KINDNESS HELP PEOPLE CHANGE by Jeffrey Foote - This book explains the use of The Craft Method (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) in using positive reenforcement to get an addicted loved one to change his behavior. An addict doesn’t want to be an addict. They are powerless and can’t see any way out. They feel the stigma and shame associated with addiction. The book gives parents tools to help an addict believe in themselves again which often leads to rehab and treatment. 

Books challenging the belief that addiction is a disease

These books highlight the belief that addiction is a learned behavior disorder. They believe that all behavior is a learned process and that in addiction the reward of the high circumvents all other options. When the struggle for the high becomes too much (rock bottom), the addict will choose to change his behavior and the recovery cycle begins. I think there is some truth in this but addiction is so complex the disease process can’t and shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. But, I think they are good reads either way.



Obviously the daily reading books by Families Anonymous, Nar-Anon and Al-Anon are also high on my list.


I have several but will list the ones I used during my early days in this process and that I continue to use.  This a very good blog. Libby addresses a new question every Thursday. The blog dates back to like 2010.   Cathy is a parent recovery coach and she addresses issues to help parents find peace in this recovery process.   This is written by three mothers whose children had substance abuse issues.


I listen to mindfulness podcasts when I need to quiet my brain. and

Contacts and information is shared by Sarah McDade for Caron and Caron Renaissance meetings, 12-step meetings, mental health facilities and addiction therapists in areas where Renaissance parents live; and nationally

DC MD VA Parent Support Groups, Jan. 2017

DC-Baltimore 12 Step Groups Jan 2017

Residential Treatment Facilities

Blogs and Texts

Things to do around Boca Raton and Delray Beach when visiting family members - submitted by Eileen S. 

Nature provides me calmness and clarity as reflected in many suggestions on the below list -

Yoga classes at various studios - Gumbo Limbo Nature Center located between Delray Beach and Boca Raton on the ocean. They offer amazing turtle walks during the turtle-nesting season, seminars and visits of the Nature Center itself.

The Wakodahatchee Wetlands - ‪13026 Jog Road, Delray Beach, FL 33446 Phone Number: ‪+1 561-641-3429. The public has also "flocked" to Wakodahatchee; it has become one of the most popular bird watching and photography spots in the County. A 3/4-mile long boardwalk allows the public to enjoy the wetlands and wildlife from the safety of the boardwalk. 

Kayaking or canoeing - Downtown Delray Beach, Atlantic Avenue and the  Pineapple Grove Arts District. - The Colony Hotel. My intent is not to advertise for this hotel but it was our refuge for many months when visiting our son at Renaissance. The reason that I refer to it as a refuge is that it became more than just a place to sleep. For us, especially during the most stressful and intense times at Renaissance, this property provided a few offerings for our mental health. When our son was able to join us, we spent a lot of time reconnecting w/ him here as well. First, there is a large porch w/ a seating area at the hotel located on Atlantic Avenue.  It was a comfortable place to hang out and reconnect.  A local yoga class is also offered frequently at the property during the week and on weekends for a minimal charge.  And, guests have free access to The Colony Beach Club - a wonderful, small beach club where you have access to free chairs, umbrellas, an Olympic size pool and a small restaurant. They also have changing rooms and showers at the Beach Club in case you need to check out of your hotel but your flight is not until later in the day. Yoga, a walk on the beach and/or a swim would consistently help us to reset, recharge and take care of ourselves during our visits. Having very easy access to these things allowed for deep breaths and being more present. This property will always hold a special place in our hearts. To us, this hotel is more than just a structure. By taking advantage of what they offered, it became a place where we could pause, reflect and regroup. - new Spring Training baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros. Only 30 minutes from Boca/Delray. - Boca Town Center Mall

A favorite place for special occasions in Delray Beach - submitted by Hananonymous 

If you plan to be visiting on a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas, Sundy House is a real treat. It is a secluded restaurant in a magical garden with creeks, orchids and colorful cottages. They do great buffets and brunches. Highly recommended when holidays or special occasions are different from in the past.

Please feel free to submit your own resources, local groups, treatment centers and more. We look forward to hearing from you! Thank you.