A 2021 Reality Report From Inside The Walls Of Teen Mental Health And Substance Use Treatment: Are The Kids Ok? With Derek Bowles, Crossroads Academy

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
A 2021 Reality Report From Inside The Walls Of Teen Mental Health And Substance Use Treatment: Are The Kids Ok? With Derek Bowles, Crossroads Academy

It's always enlightening to get perspective from someone who works with young people day in and day out around mental health and substance use challenges, especially now. In our (mostly) post-COVID world, a time when kids have an intense fear of failure and in the era of widespread fentanyl poisoning, we have to ask, are the kids OK?

After his massively popular Hopestream episode (#2) on teens, residential treatment, and natural highs, I invited Derek Bowles, co-founder of Crossroads Academy, back to the podcast to share what he's seeing with kids today.

We covered such a wide range of topics including:

  • the challenge of practicing radical acceptance while still being an active parent
  • the real need to let go of expectations, outcomes and the idea of "perfect"
  • COVID's impact on kids in treatment
  • parents, school and the massive pressure kids feel 
  • why is there so much more anxiety and depression in kids today?
  • the question every single parent should focus on before asking about grades
  • the need for being proactive about mental health for our teens
  • teens, trauma + treatment 
  • thoughts for what parents should be looking for a treatment program
  • why opiates are the perfect drug for treating trauma – and not
  • whether treatment today is hurting or helping people
  • the brain chemistry behind natural highs and why that's so important
  • 5 mandatory elements of the ideal post-treatment environment for teens
  • the outlook for mental health and substance use treatment

You do not want to miss this epic episode so strap on your walking shoes, grab the dog and tune in. 


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SPEAKERS: Derek Bowles, Brenda Zane

[00:00:00] Derek: In my experience, what we all want, and kids in particular even more is first a connected relationship where they feel heard and understood. Does this person sitting in front of me really know who I am, and do they accept me for who I am? Or does it come with that? Requirements. Do I have to get good grades for this person who’s sitting in front of me to think I’m okay? 

And once, once it is this idea that my acceptance, my worth comes with these attachments or with these beliefs, that creates the problem. And so this radical acceptance of our kids and this idea that I’m sitting across from a person where I’ve been tasked as a parent to raise, To help create this outcome. 

How do I fully accept them for who they are right now? Wow. 

[00:01:03] Brenda: Welcome to HopeStream, the podcast for parents of kids who are misusing drugs or alcohol, or who are in active addiction, treatment, or early recovery. I’m your host, Brenda Zane, fellow parent to a child who struggled. So I’m right there with you. If you’re enjoying the podcast and want to hang out with me and a bunch of other great moms after the episodes, you can check out the stream. 

It’s a positive online space where you can get support and take a breather from the stresses of dealing with your son or daughter. Just go to the stream community. com to learn more. Now let’s get into today’s episode. Hello, friends. Welcome back. Today, you get to hear from one of my absolute favorite people. 

He has been a part of our family’s team for over seven years and has been instrumental in my son’s recovery and in mine as well. You’re going to get to hear me speak today with Derek Bowles, who is also on episode number two. So if you haven’t heard that one, be sure to rewind all the way back to the beginning of Hope’s Dream and listen to that one as well. 

And the reason I asked Derek to come back for another episode is twofold. One is that he is in daily contact with young guys between the age of 14 and 20. every day because he’s the co founder and lead therapist at Crossroads Academy in Ogden, Utah. And I figure if you have that much contact with these kids on a daily basis, you probably know and hear things that we as parents might not. 

The teens and young adults in the Crossroads program have almost all been to wilderness therapy as well. So he sees kids at the What I think is a really critical point in their treatment journey. I also wanted to have Derek back because I wanted to get his thoughts and perspectives on the landscape of adolescent and young adult treatment now after dealing with COVID for over a year and what that has done with our kids. 

And then I also just wanted to talk in general about some questions that I had about treatment, about things like fentanyl, and I’ll also present him with some questions that I got from members of the stream. For a quick bio on Derek, he co founded Crossroads Academy in 2007. And for the past 14 years, he’s worked with thousands of young men and their families when they’re struggling with mental health issues, substance use challenges, all of the things our kids are struggling with. 

And Crossroads is a small residential treatment center in Utah where kids work really closely with their therapists in a really Highly experiential way. They obviously also focus on education and they specialize in adventure sports like snowboarding, skiing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing, skateboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, and bouldering. 

I don’t know. Does that sound like treatment to you? Sounds pretty awesome. They found that these sports, in particular, are really ideal for students who may have had a history of addiction or risk seeking behavior, and they provide for natural highs, which we would all love our kids to get versus the other kind of highs. 

You can learn more about Crossroads and the unique approach that they take to adolescent and young adult treatment and all of their programs at CrossroadsRTC. com. I’ll also put a link to that in the show notes. Okay. I will now let you listen in to a massively informative conversation with Derek Bowles. 

Welcome Derek back to HopeStream. Thrilled to have you back today to talk a little bit deeper. Like I told you, your, first episode, which is number two of HopeStream is always in the top five. And so I just thought it would be a good time to check back in with you, see what’s going on. It’s been a little over a year and a lot’s happened since January of 2020 when we talked last. 

So welcome back.  

[00:05:20] Derek: Oh, thank you. I’ve, I’ve looked so forward to talking to you again. And yeah, I so enjoyed doing the first podcast and love to see how much growth you’ve had and how much you’re helping folks. So I’m, I’m happy to chat a little bit.  

[00:05:32] Brenda: Awesome. Awesome. we have lots to cover because there has been a lot going on in 2020 and the first half of 21. 

So I thought I would just, just as a check in. Overall, how are kids doing today? what are you seeing as far as kids coming in? And then if you have insight into how they’re landing once they leave residential treatment? I know that you sometimes lose touch with them a little bit at that phase, but sure. 

Just what are you seeing in the world?  

[00:06:06] Derek: Yeah, it’s, clearly been Yeah. Somewhat impactful for all of us and in particular adolescents and kids. And I think some of the things that I’ve seen, it’s one overall, I think kids and adolescents have been incredibly resilient. The kids in, in my program and coming in as they, manage covet and their response to covet and even getting covet. 

I had multiple outbreaks in the group homes Like it’s just it just seemed like it knew how to find us really quickly and and how kids responded seemed to be Truthfully in so much ways better than their parents, they just seemed to roll with it, you know Obviously they didn’t get as sick and they’re they’re young and and maybe don’t understand the bigger picture in a lot of ways So I think overall I think Been surprised how resilient and how much kids have rolled with things. 

Having said that, I think kiddos who already had underlying anxieties or depressions, I think definitely that was exasperated. the forced isolation for a lot of folks, the, the, the angst that was in the air and, and within our communities. And, I think we’re kids would, we’re already struggling that, that seemed to exasperate that for at least for, for some time. 

And I think like in a lot of situations when there’s a crisis or there’s a trauma, what was underlying seems to either get solidified, right? Either if you’re, if you’re pretty healthy, that kind of comes to the, to the surface and you’re pretty resilient or. If there was already something underlying or, or already, difficulties that, that definitely seem to be exasperated. 

And so it seemed to me that my kiddos that had those underlying struggles were a little worse this last year, for sure, that the anxieties were deeper than depression was deeper. And yet, in some ways, my other kiddos seemed to respond really, really well and were resilient. So it was interesting to see for sure. 

[00:08:09] Brenda: Yeah, I can imagine. Yeah, the, the isolation and just that loss because I think as adults, we sometimes forget how influential the friend group is at that age. And so to be completely cut off from that or mostly cut off from that could just be such a massive impact for them.  

[00:08:29] Derek: Absolutely. It’s interesting because this is where like social media comes into play to think about this. 

If this was 15 years ago and wouldn’t have any interaction, like they didn’t snapchat, they didn’t have, instagram, they weren’t communicating. And the way that they do right now, which I think is actually in some way, it’s really cool and really awesome. If we didn’t have that, I think it would have been exasperated. 

I think it would have been much, much worse than what we already experienced. And so it’s, it’s again, one of those kinds of dual edged swords in the sense that part of social media is a problem. And then another part of it, it’s a miracle. Like it’s, it’s really cool. So yeah, it definitely had a lot of extremes this last year and a lot of things that we. 

We didn’t know where a problem became apparent and other things that we thought were bigger problems were, were really not that big of a deal.  

[00:09:22] Brenda: Yeah, that’s good to hear about the resilience. Cause I was wondering about that. I think we know in general, kids tend to be very resilient, but I think I always think of that as. 

In the terms of like younger kids, but it’s good to hear that even the teen group is resilient and I think you’re right. It’s maybe they didn’t totally understand the Severity of what kovat could be which is probably okay to some degree  

[00:09:48] Derek: for sure Absolutely, absolutely And my kiddos in particular kids in treatment It was actually like a saving grace for a lot of families where, where it seems to be so abnormal normally, right? 

Cause kids are in school and kids are living their lives when, when a kid was in treatment, it was actually a saving grace for parents because my kiddos were still being so active and doing all the adventure based sports. They were still in school and they were around peers and and so treatment in this last year became Something that was like where parents were probably telling other parents like oh my god You’re so lucky as compared to oh, that must be so hard. 

It really was A silver lining it for parents with their kiddos in recovery and the fact that this particular last year, there probably wasn’t a better place for their kids and then maybe in a program like mine where they, they had all of that. And while being abnormal was actually way more normal than what kids were experiencing. 

[00:10:51] Brenda: It’s a unique twist on what we typically think of when kids go to treatment. that’s really interesting. So you had mentioned anxiety and depression, and I’m just curious, I ask this of lots of people who are on the podcast, because I’m always curious to hear your answer. I’m working with them day to day. 

What is that? And is it really I think of it like the peanut allergy. do kids actually have more peanut allergies now or do we just know about them? But what do you see in kids? And why is there so much anxiety and depression now? Because I’ve heard from different educational consultants and programs that That the number of kids coming into treatment for anxiety and depression is actually coming up to on par or surpassing those with substance use issues. 

So I’m curious to get your take on that.  

[00:11:40] Derek: Yeah. Yeah. there’s no doubt that there is an increase in anxiety and depression with adolescents, and it is probably a combination of factors. Definitely more access to treatment and more openness to treatment allows for more diagnosis that allows for more. 

Insight. And so there is a little piece of this that is driven by kids are just going to therapy more and they’re getting more treatment. And so research wise or numbers wise, we know that they’re, the numbers are coming up. Is it substantial? It’s not. In my experience, I don’t think it’s, so different than 10 years ago, where it would be like just overwhelming, but, but it is enough where, where we should be taking a look at it and saying, okay, what’s different. 

And I think it’s probably causational, like a lot of things. I think, I think there are a lot of things leading to why kids are more anxious. I don’t think there’s one magic silver bullet that says, this is the reason why it’s probably a combination of. Different factors that are lending towards that it’s interesting because I think there is again the dichotomies. 

I do think in a lot of ways, kids are actually healthier than they’ve ever been. They’re more resilient than they’ve ever been. They’re more insightful of emotionally than they’ve ever been. kids are engaging in social and emotional issues that a lot of adults have whenever you’ve looked at. And so it is this combination of we’re getting healthier, more insightful, more educated, And as a result also we’re we’re seeing increases in some of the anxieties and depressions. 

I think it is enough that The industry as a whole and professionals as a whole are saying, okay, there’s something here, but I’ve been hard pressed to find anybody that can really say it’s this one thing. And I, I certainly don’t know the one thing that that would be contributing to it outside of kind of a, a colliding of events that’s led to it. 

[00:13:35] Brenda: Yeah, I hear that. Same thing that it’s a collection of things. I think social media can definitely play into that. I do some health and wellness coaching and I’m always surprised with my younger clients that I work with. We often have multiple conversations around Instagram, around how many likes they’re getting on their content, about how often they should be posting. 

And this is like driving a huge amount of stress for them. And  

I’m thinking, Oh  

my gosh, I just think that’s so much pressure. If that’s what you’re having to worry about, in addition to all the regular stuff in life and college and all of that. It’s a little confounding, but I, I do hear social and also just that from your first episode, what was seared into my brain from that was your thoughts around just expectations and outcomes and how as parents, we really need to let go of those because it is causing what I keep hearing is this fear of failure that kids are having  

[00:14:37] Derek: such a huge piece. 

I think, again, that the social media piece and what the research is showing is that. That it is a problem and it tends to be a problem for kids where it would have already been a problem, right? So if you already have an anxious kid who who doesn’t feel like they fit in or feel connected or they have that self esteem stuff that’s amplified by social media where for the majority of kids, it isn’t an issue like You know my daughter who’s 17 barely even gets on social media I mean I as her parent i’m on socially social media way more than my daughter She just doesn’t care like she has a small group of friends that that they snapchat and do some of that stuff but as far as like The social media piece and life like just doesn’t even register they grew up with it And so it has lost a lot of the appeal for them in the way that That maybe even as adults, we never grew up with it. 

And so it’s just this thing that we’ve had to learn to manage as an adult that we haven’t been great at. And so if there is an underlying issue, it seems to exasperate it for a lot of people, social media, actually, the reports are that they feel closer to people, they feel more connected, they have more circle of friends, they feel like they understand the world better, they see the world in a bigger picture. 

So there are a lot of positives about social media. That, like our, our parents would have never have seen the world and the way our kids can see the world through social media, cultures and beliefs and religions and ideas. And, and looking at this last year, the social justice and social awareness has been, I think, a really good thing in the sense of teaching young kids. 

So I do think the, again, going back to COVID, one of the cool things that I saw this year. About the switch in schooling is just what you talked about. Like parents just took a big break this last year from worrying about school. Like I had less parents this year worry about the schooling piece of their recovery with their kids in our program than I’ve ever seen. 

They’ve just been like, ah, yeah, my kid’s been at home doing school, so it doesn’t matter. these, these expectations about having to go to these elite schools just, just got off. Floored in the fact that you couldn’t go to school this year. So one of the positives, I think, coming out of COVID that I’m hopeful of is that. 

They’re, they’re talking about now taking away the ACT and SAT as even a requirement for college,  

[00:17:00] Brenda: right?  

[00:17:01] Derek: How cool would that be? If we just, if we really did stop looking at like this idea of achievement as some sort of marker of, of future success, or at least in the sense of the pressure we put on kids to get a good ACT score, That’s bonkers for a 17 year old to be worried about a test score to the point that it causes them mental health issues, which it does. 

And one of the cool things about COVID, I think, in the sense of education, is that we all got a little realistic about what it is that we’re really trying to do here. And I think there was a grounding for a lot of folks on, you know what, it may just not matter as much. My kid who was at college, who I thought this was going to be the greatest year of their life. 

They’re like, Way happier being at home right now, so I think it was definitely a huge reframe for a lot of folks and Looking at expectations for their kids for education  

[00:17:58] Brenda: 100. Yeah, i’ve seen that a lot too where parents have just said Wow, I need to prioritize my kids mental health over school and i’m so fortunate that my son graduated high school with you there in, in a program. 

And I can say, listen, it doesn’t have to look like what you think it’s going to have to look like. my son graduated from high school, doing school in treatment and it worked out great. And. Not one single person since then has ever asked him where he graduated from high school, nor does it matter. 

[00:18:31] Derek: It’s so doesn’t like it, it really is this ultimate thing for, and you’re touching on it in the sense of this idea that we have as parents of how this world works and what makes it work and how our kids are going to be successful in it, and then trying to force our kid into that idea causes so many more problems than it is helpful. 

And so if we can shake that up at all, if we can, we can let go of that outcome and just, just really focus on the process and the journey, I think certainly my job gets way easier, but, but kids just navigate it so much better when it isn’t about this ideal outcome as compared to just the process.  

[00:19:14] Brenda: Yeah. 
And I think that, I get the question a lot, cause I think parents are starting to wake up and realize this about the outcomes about expectations. And what I often hear is I tell my kid. I don’t care where you go to college, or I don’t care what career you choose, just, just do something productive versus sitting in your room and smoke pot all day. 

And the kids still are feeling this pressure, so I’m just curious if you have any thoughts about things that parents could do in the home, starting when the kids are tweens. Because obviously if they’re listening to this, they don’t have three year olds. So ideally we would start this kind of it’s okay to fail attitude in our homes when they’re young. 

But in light of the fact that probably most people have tweens and teens, if you have been one of those parents all along, who’s had very high expectations and made those very clear to your kids. And now you’re starting to go, Hmm, maybe this can shift. Are there ideas that you have about how we could practically do that in our homes? 

[00:20:20] Derek: Yeah, that is such a good question. And it’s one that I see in the sense of, and we’ve experienced together in the fact that when a kid’s forced into treatment because their lives have gotten so unmanageable, the process of that does that oftentimes for parents, right? Where the mindset was, my kid’s got to go to this, this college, and this is what it will look like. 

kids will Let you know that ain’t gonna work for me, right? So their lives become unmanageable. so it’s somewhat in that process that we then do refocus, right? We all of a sudden worrying about that school doesn’t matter when you’re just worried about keeping your kid alive or or just worried about You know the long term effects of drug addiction or or legal problems or those kind of things and so in the same way that can happen and could happen in the context of You just without a kid having to go to treatment, which is we just moved the focus from being hyper focused on outcomes in education or sports performance And really shift to just what really matters which is how am I helping my kid be mentally healthy? 

What am I doing to help my kid physically be healthy? What am I doing helping my kid learn how to engage in interpersonal relationships? How am I helping my kid figure out conflict resolution? And so it’s the shifting of i’m worried about your grades grades grades grades and my put all my it’s where I put my energy And and i’m gonna Shift that into putting my energy into, I’m really interested in having conversations with you about your mental health and how are you doing in the sense of not as a preventative piece or, I’m anxious, so now let’s fix this. 

But before that and saying, how can you be mentally healthy? What, what are you doing that helps you be connected in relationships and, and making that shift? So I would even write that down in the sense of the two or three things that is apparent that I’m most. Interested in, and then I am going to manage my own anxieties around the outcomes of grades, meaning that I’m really not going to just keep asking my kid about their schoolwork every day before I engage in about these three or four other things, which is how are you connected to your friends right now? 

Or how are you feeling emotionally? How are you managing your stress and anxieties and, and just really moving our focus from, in some ways it’s easy parenting just to focus on grades. It’s so manageable in some ways, in the sense of either you’re passing or not, is that assignment in or not, but it’s a much harder deal to really engage your kid about how are you connecting in your relationships with your peers? 

Like, how do you, how do you find yourself, resolving conflict with people? And so if we really care about it, that we can do it and then it isn’t that difficult.  

[00:23:07] Brenda: Yeah. what comes to mind for me when you talk about that is in order for us to have those conversations with our kids, we have to be doing that. 

So we have to be in touch with our emotional selves. We have to know how we’re managing our relationships and our bodies and our mental health, in order to have that conversation with them. yeah.  

[00:23:29] Derek: I agree. That’s so smart. And I think it’s, it’s easier said than done, right? I do think actually it’s sometimes it’s, we can avoid all that by just focusing on our kids. 

Great. that’s partially like we can, because it’s such a manageable piece or we can go to the sports, my kids playing sports. So I feel really good about stuff. And, but. My kid may not be connected to his peers or, so I just think of a shift in what it is we put our energy into can make all the difference in and ultimately what it is our kids feel is important from us. 

[00:24:04] Brenda: because we are the mirrors for them. So if I think the parallel for us could be, I’m focusing all of my time and attention and energy on this next promotion or getting the house in the right neighborhood or whatever it is. And so if we’re doing that, we’re not modeling what we want our kids to be doing, which is focusing on their mental health and the things that truly make them happy. 

So I do think. think that that can be a struggle for parents, because as I learned going through this process, it is a complete family disease and you have to all be willing to jump into the kind of like therapeutic pool and do the work, which is hard, right? It’s really hard. And I’m curious in light of that, is that what kids most want from parents? 

I think you just sit in a unique seat where you’re sitting with A bunch of young guys, and I know you have girls and you interact with girls as well, but what is it that kids really want from their parents?  

[00:25:02] Derek: What a great question. In my experience, what we all want, and kids in particular, even more is first a connected relationship where they feel heard and understood. 

Does this person sitting in front of me really know who I am and do they accept me for who I am? Or does it come with requirements? Do I have to get good grades for this person who’s sitting in front of me to think I’m okay? And once it is this idea of that, my acceptance, my worth comes with these attachments or with these beliefs, right? 

I have to go to this religion. I have to go, go do this thing for this person who sits in front of me to accept me. That creates the problem. And so this radical acceptance of our kids and this, I think, I did that i’m sitting across from a person where i’ve been tasked as a parent to raise right to help create this outcome How do I fully accept them for who they are right now? 

While still doing this piece of where I have to parent that can be super tricky in the sense that But it’s not like we we don’t have Goals for our kids or expectations or boundaries, like it, it comes with that, but does it, does it come with that at the cost of the relationship? And, and so I think what kids really want is that connected relationship with this idea that, that whatever my struggle is and my process, this person is going to accept me and love me and, and help me through that as compared to, if I don’t meet this ideal, then this person doesn’t have much interest in me, or I’m not okay. 

And I see that a lot and I don’t think parents mean to do it like I I do think a lot of times it comes from a place of care, but So much of our affection and love is contingent on if our kids are good or not.  

[00:26:56] Brenda: And if  

[00:26:56] Derek: they’re not, then we don’t even know what to do with that. And it becomes such a reflection. 

I don’t know how many times I’ve had parents say to me, like, all the neighbors are saying this, or my friends or my mom or my sister, like so much of how we view ourselves as parents oftentimes is in relationship to how we think others are viewing us as a parent. And that’s cancer, man. And that is. That is the cancer of our culture and, and I think kids can really see that pretty quickly. 

[00:27:26] Brenda: Yeah, I would agree. And what I often hear is, my kid is so brilliant. They are capable of so much. So it’s not that the parents Think, oh my gosh, my kid’s so dumb or it’s almost the opposite. Like they can see the potential and they can see how amazingly smart and creative and entrepreneurial or whatever it is, and the kid’s just not applying it. 

And so that’s, I think where the tension comes into for a lot of parents is, oh my gosh, I can see, maybe I wanted them to become a dentist, but I can see that they’re a brilliant artist and I’m trying to. Foster that creativity, but they’re just not applying themselves. And so I think that’s a struggle too, is time, that it takes time sometimes for kids to find themselves. 

So the fact that they’re not doing that at 17 or 18 or even 23 shouldn’t be a big shock to us.  

[00:28:26] Derek: And I think in hindsight, we look back and we can say, listen, Oh, my kid has landed at this spot right now. And they’re doing great. Whatever great really means. But ultimately, if you look back and go, okay, what would have I had to skip? 

So say that the addiction piece is part of a kid’s journey in the sense of really figuring out who they are and understanding who they are and, Learning how to manage their emotions and deal with those emotions in a healthy way, connect in relationships. What if there was no way that my kid could have landed where they’re at right now, which looks pretty healthy and good, had they not gone through this before? 

Yet in the midst of it, we would do anything to get rid of it. We’re trying to say, I don’t want my kid to have to go through this. And, certainly, obviously I’m not talking about drug overdoses and death. That’s obviously we don’t wish that on anybody, but the process itself in the midst of it, oftentimes we’re in such a hurry to get rid of it. 

As compared to just being like, wow, I wonder what this is teaching me. Are my kids learning about himself? That ultimately is going to matter at 23, 24. And I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to parents with a 17, 16, 17, 18 year old is as they’re completing treatment. And I’ve had to say, you’re, you’re not done. 

this is really just the starting of this this this maturation where now he has some increased skills and tools to to manage what’s already going to be really hard and so We’re going to circle back here in a year or maybe two years or maybe five years like you’re not done So as kids are going through that process to get that perspective is hard when you’re in the midst of it But in retrospect, it becomes crystal clear. 

It becomes wow. Mike There’s not another way, like my kid really had to do it this way to fully figure it out.  

[00:30:14] Brenda: Yeah, a hundred percent. And the struggle with that right now that I’m seeing in my community is fentanyl. Oh. Yes, we want to see our kids struggle and we want to, if you get to that point, so I see there’s almost like this point, I wish I had better words to describe it where, and I deal with mostly moms. 

So mom will get to the point where like the light goes on and she goes, Oh, okay, I can do this. I need to let them experience natural consequences and all of those things that are those teachers. And what’s super hard right now is with fentanyl on the market. That teacher could be very deadly at any given time. 

And so that’s where I feel the sense of panic from so many parents saying, I 100 percent understand that I need to let my kids struggle and I need to let them go through this and I need to let it teach us. And that’s good. How do I do that when every single day they’re taking a substance that It’s russian roulette every single day, right? 

So I I don’t know if you’re seeing that because I don’t know if parents are getting their kids into wilderness because kids tend to for anybody who’s listening kids will Tend to go to wilderness therapy first for I don’t know 6 8 10 12 weeks depending on your kid Before they get to a residential program like derek’s so that’s the struggle that I think a lot of us are facing right now Is how do I allow some of this? 

when That xanax that they’re taking isn’t xanax. It’s xanax and fentanyl It’s just really hard  

[00:31:49] Derek: It is and I guess that my clarification in that as you talk about that is that what i’m talking about isn’t about Not engaging or even pushing or forcing certain things, right? Like i’m not saying let’s just let it play out What i’m saying is like that’s actually where parents actually have to maybe even dig in harder. 

listen this Fentanyl is is like something we’ve never seen before. This isn’t My kid’s going through a phase fentanyl is a poison like this is a health crisis and let me let me also just intentionally talk about fentanyl and the opiate thing and then And a little bit context in the sense that to me, this is a medical issue that is trying to be solved through mental health issues. 

Okay, there is a mental, mental health component to addiction, but that is not what fentanyl is. Fentanyl was created, created by science as a powerful, powerful medicine. This is a medical issue. This, this has to be resolved by a medical intervention, not by mental health intervention. And that’s why kids are dying, right? 

Is because we’re trying to solve a medical, biological, biomedical issue through a mental health process. And it will not work. And kids will continue to die if we don’t change that. This was started in a doctor’s office. This was started in a lab somewhere. This has to be fixed that way. Yeah. Yeah.  

[00:33:14] Brenda: Yeah. So glad you said that because parents get so confused where, and we can talk about trauma in a minute because I really want to get to that with you because it is, there’s so many layers to the onion and as soon as you layer on fentanyl, game over, like all of a sudden you need a completely different route of intervention and treatment than you would if you were not on fentanyl. 

Including fentanyl. And sadly, I think a lot of times kids are at the younger age, getting into it, not knowing that fentanyl is in the picture. And it’s one  

[00:33:47] Derek: in two times use that are killing kids. Like this isn’t, this isn’t a process where heroin was in the past, where that was the bottom of the barrel, right? 

When you got to heroin, that means you hit skid row. And that was, that’s, Yeah, that’s not what we’re seeing right now. We’re seeing very, very young users, very young kids getting drugs that they, they have no idea what’s in them and using on a Friday and our dead Saturday morning, and they were taking their ACT the next week. 

that’s not what this drug is. This is in all the energy we put towards COVID and trying to come up with a vaccine. We need that if not doubled in fixing this epidemic.  

[00:34:29] Brenda: Do not even get started  

[00:34:33] Derek: We are on the same page in the sense of what’s Heartbreaking to me is that it’s been thrown in the laps of of mental health providers who are woefully unable to manage that You cannot treat fentanyl addiction from an outpatient process. This is a biomedical issue that has nothing to do with being powerless over a drug. This is a, this is a poison that will kill you. so to me, we really do need to change that whole narrative in the sense of, even if that’s an, that it’s a drug addiction, because I don’t even look at fentanyl as a drug addiction. 

I look at it as a, as a poison. It’s a poison. Yeah, this is a virus or whatever you want to call it, but this is not, Hey, I’m sad. So I’m doing a drug. This is killing too many people and, and we have to have a different shift on that. So setting that aside, when I talk about that process of what parents do, sometimes that is you’re really going to hit that hard and just as if your kid had diabetes, you’re not saying to your kiddo, just figure that one out and let’s not let you eat that and see how that, we are going to still. 

Parents, right? We are still going to intervene, but we also are going to take away the outcome of it all needs to be perfect and also trust that, okay, my kids, my kid is learning in this process as well.  

[00:35:58] Brenda: Yeah, totally. And then you have the added complexity of some kids who are truly just experimenting. 

They are not. Addicts, they are not addicted to anything. They’re at a party and take a pill. And like you said, taking the ACT the next week. And then you have the kids who are, and maybe we can transition a little bit to talk about trauma, who are looking for something to escape. The, some of the emotions that they’re feeling, unfortunately, they end up with fentanyl. 

So that’s a whole different kind of scenario, but I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are about trauma. There’s just been so much in the last couple of years coming out with books and films and research about this. What are you seeing with that?  

[00:36:43] Derek: I think it is somewhat a fad in the sense of this happens in addiction and addiction treatment and recovery and the fact that we go through these cycles in the sense of What it is, right? 

Could it be you know, a few years ago chasing the scream and it’s about connected relationships And then you know, there’s some some good stuff on trauma. I tend to look at addiction as being super individualized And polycausational and trauma unresolved trauma is more comorbid, meaning it appears more, it happens more people have addiction. 

So to me, it’s enough of a red flag and enough of a sign that says we better, we, we really do need to assess trauma in all of our kiddos that are struggling with addiction. And for some it is going to be the core issue. It’s going to be that bullying. It’s going to be death or loss. It’s going to be some sort of accident that like they’re, even surgeries, like even young kids with surgery, having surgery young, I’ve seen more than, than enough situations. 

To me that says okay. This is something I should be assessing with all of my clients That trauma could be a factor in their current use and especially particularly use that seems to be less social and more Individualized meaning kids are getting high without their friends. They’re doing it to be able to fall asleep They’re doing it to be able to manage just day to day. 

So the kind of use Also lends to what may be pushing it. You So yeah, I think it’s a big deal. I think it’s part of the process for lots of kids. And, and what, what’s also really hopeful in that is that we know how to treat trauma, like we have, we have, we have good things that can really help with trauma, EMDR and brain spotting and cognitive behavioral therapy really do work with trauma. 

We can treat the trauma. We really do treat the addiction. So I think with that, there are, for some kids, it’s just not even part of it, but for lots of young folks, it is a big narrative in their recovery.  

[00:38:52] Brenda: Yeah, and does that because what I hear too is that parents will say, Oh my gosh, my son is in his third treatment and we just learned about this abuse that happened back whenever. 

And so I think for parents, if you’re unaware of what may be, and I’m not saying by any means that everybody should be. But your kid’s been abused. I don’t want to, I don’t want to plant that seed, but I’m just saying it may take several opportunities for them in a treatment environment to allow that to come out, whether it’s divorce. 

for my son, it was really our divorce just Absolutely devastated him or a childhood abuse, or like you said, a surgery, an accident, I know people who’s a sibling has had a very serious accident or died. And then, the younger brothers and sisters really suffer from that. I do think that treatment, and especially in a residential setting where they would be with you, where they’re living day in and day out and have that kind of mentor relationship with, it’s not just like I’m dropping you off at your therapy appointment for an hour every Tuesday, because I don’t know. 

It absolutely could come out there, but it might not. It just seems to me that in a setting like Where you are, if you’re on a mountaintop or you’re water skiing or whatever, all the fun stuff that you guys do, that that could just give a kid an opportunity in a less threatening way to share some of that. 

[00:40:23] Derek: No doubt. And, and, outside of some direct, physical or sexual abuse, some kids don’t even know that the trauma is the trauma. Their brain isn’t developed enough. Their emotional insight isn’t such that they can even connect those two dots. And so you really do need a mental health professional who is assessing for trauma to be able to oftentimes connect the dot. 

It’s not like I, when I’m working with somebody, I’m like searching for this bad thing that’s happened. That’s not how we assess for trauma. What we’re looking for is physiological responses in context to triggers that then we can lead back to what that was connected to. So we’re seeing physiological responses, way before we’re even knowing what’s triggering that. 

And so it’s not like we need to find this hidden thing in the sense of, because it’s, it’s being presented to us. And if we’re assessing for those responses, then we’re able to treat in such a better way. And this is just part of my two cents. It’s why, when you look at addiction. If you look at addiction in what was the traditional kind of assessment that the use itself is the problem, right? 

So your 12 step program is really going to focus on the use itself as the issue. I think this is why we’ve struggled for a long, long time in treating it appropriately. Because when you look at it through the lens of mental health and underlying conditions, it’s so vast and there’s so much more to really be able to then look at and engage that I do think looking at it as a poly causational process as compared to just the process itself, meaning the use. 

I think you’re much better off and, and, and if I’m a parent, I’m looking at a program and a program says to me, I’m a 12 step program. And this is what we do. We’re an abstinence based program. that works really good for the person that works good for, but it’s like one in seven. And so what about the six other kids where that’s never going to work for I’m not looking for a program based on what the program says it’s going to provide for what they do. 

I’m looking for a program that says how am I going to individually treat my kiddo for his or her needs with multiple different modalities. That’s what i’m looking for in a program that i’m looking for a solid assessment That gets to those issues and then i’m looking for multiple modalities to treat that because that’s the nature of addiction not this one cause Moral dilemma that that can be fixed by a one approach You know that fits all Process. 

It doesn’t work that way. Long term, you’re going to get kids that fit into that because that’s particularly what they need. But, but you’re going to miss way more than than not. So as a parent, I’m looking for a program that that has multiple approaches to help my kids individual stuff.  

[00:43:18] Brenda: Yeah. And yeah, like you said, it’s, and I talked to moms about this all the time is, your kid is fairly brilliant in that they have found a way to relieve whatever it is they’re relieving really well, like they’re really good, like Xanax works. 

Alcohol works. It’s got some serious downsides. Yes, yes. But they’re pretty smart in that they found the fastest way to get that relief that they’re looking for, even if they don’t recognize it at the time. And I think you’re right. And that they don’t, they don’t recognize, yep. They don’t what it is. 

But man, did they find. The smartest way to, that’s like the quickest, fastest band aid that you could ever find. So if you rip that band aid off and you don’t give them anything to replace it with, that is going to lead you to a world of hurt. And I just, having lived through relapse, how many times, and I hear this from parents all the time, just like the relapse thing is so Devastating. 

And they’re just always on edge because it’s my kid just came back from treatment and I’m terrified. And I’m thinking, if you don’t have any other band aid to give them, yeah, it’s going to be terrifying.  

[00:44:34] Derek: Yeah. Think about that in the sense of when we talked about this medical issue with opiates. 

If you were to tell me what is a perfect drug to treat trauma? I would tell you it’s an opiate.  

[00:44:45] Brenda: Absolutely.  

[00:44:46] Derek: It’s brilliant in, in what it does to the brain. There is the opiate receptor in the brain. Opium is only made in two places, in the poppy seed of the opiate plant and in the human body. So we literally have already created in our brains a system that helps us treat trauma. 


[00:45:05] Brenda: Yep.  
[00:45:06] Derek: Now we’ve made a pill in that and manufactured that and, and made the science so incredible that the brain, when we give it that pill says, Oh my God, this is it. It’s amazing. I’ve been dealing with this, whatever this was, this is amazing. And so you want me to give that up to feel this other thing and you’re not giving me any other options? 

No, no, like I’m going to take this pill. And so here you have really a biomedical process. It has nothing to do with your morals, or your values, or, your will. This is a receptor in the brain that, when given this pill, literally wipes away the trauma. The magic about opiates is that it takes away the fact that you care about pain. 

Not the pain itself, but that you worry about the pain.  

[00:45:56] Brenda: Right.  

[00:45:57] Derek: And so that’s a powerful piece, and so if we are going to ask kids who are dealing with trauma to not take that, we better help them have some other skills. One, if we can eliminate the trauma. Then they don’t need it anymore, right? If we can address the trauma, rewire the brain through some brain spotting or EMDR or through cognitive behavioral stuff where the trigger doesn’t elicit the response. 

We then are able to take away even the need to get, to have that receptor in use. And so that’s what can be really powerful. That doesn’t come by going to a meeting.  

[00:46:32] Brenda: No, no it doesn’t.  

[00:46:36] Derek: And I’m a little biased in the sense of right now because, because I actually think in a lot of ways treatment right now is harming people more than it’s helping them. 

In particular with opiates, that’s abstinence based programs that are forcing something that biomedically we already have the research that says that’s not the way to do it.  

[00:46:54] Brenda: Yeah. Yeah,  

[00:46:55] Derek: and so so I think if we’re really going to shift that particular problem in our culture We really need to look at that totally different,  

[00:47:03] Brenda: right? 

And just quickly because you said that there’s two places that opium comes from the poppy You know the poppy seed and the body And I know that you’re a big focus there is on those natural highs So maybe you can talk for just a second about how you’re helping young guys find that high without the poppy seeds,  

[00:47:27] Derek: yeah, so here, here you have these chemicals, right? 

And, and the brain, there’s four or five of them. We, we’ve been able to map really well, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, ananon, which is really the, what marijuana mimics. And then the adrenaline as well as the opiate receptor itself in the brain. And so as we’ve mapped that out and we’re seeing, okay, this is, this is what we see in anxiety. 

There’s a lack of dopamine and serotonin. The chemical doesn’t stay in the brain long enough. So those neurotransmitters are misfiring or over firing. This is how we treat that. And so What we know about diet and exercise was where some of the first research came out that said, if we’re releasing some of these chemicals, naturally, they stay in the brain longer and naturally decreases the anxiety and depression. 

And so the science is there to match that what we know about the extreme sports. Because the research is now matching that is that it extremely amps that up, right? So you’ve heard of a runner’s high or a natural high in that way with the extreme sports. It’s like running in traffic, right? You’re going to get, there’s a risk element in going down on the mountain, on a snowboard or on a skateboard or rock climbing that amplifies that process. 

So it releases those chemicals in the, in a more direct, faster streamlined way, which. Don’t have like they have the same effects as the drugs without all the bad side effects And so for us it was really normal and natural for us to To engage those sports because that’s part of what helps boys stay interested in treatment But as a secondary result it really is Helping the brain deal with that everyday stuff that that they were using drugs to manage and you know It’s interesting that that there are particular sports too that for instance any of my cocaine guys Who’ve had amphetamine kind of stuff rock climbing seems to be their drug of sport  

[00:49:23] Brenda: You  
[00:49:25] Derek: know, yeah, there, there seems to be a draw towards the rock climbing in a way that no other, other drug where it’s like the snowboarding and the skateboarding and the wakeboarding are more my marijuana guys for whatever reason. 

And I don’t have any science that matches that, but, but it’s an interesting process that I see.  

[00:49:43] Brenda: That’s fascinating. I’m sure there’s something there, but if it works, it works. Yeah.  

[00:49:48] Derek: Yeah. Let’s just follow it. We’ll, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll do the research after, and I think for all of us, as we live adventure based lives, as we, as we’re finding those things in our lives that we can put a lot of focus and intention to that, that gives us a sense of self or that, that release in our brains, that that’s all good stuff. 

[00:50:07] Brenda: Yeah. And, and speaking of, to that, I get this question asked all the time. So I’m going to ask it of you because kids will, go to wilderness therapy, then they’ll go into a residential treatment program, maybe for a year. What would, in your eyes, the perfect post treatment environment look like for, let’s say you have a 17 year old who’s been to wilderness, been to residential, now is going home, senior year of high school. 

What words of wisdom would you have for parents who are in that situation and terrified because they’ve just invested their entire 401k into all of this and they really want to set their kid up for the best success. any thoughts about that?  

[00:50:50] Derek: Yeah, definitely. There are probably three or four areas that I would say are must that, that have to be in place for a kid to be successful and how we do that could happen across so many different domains. 

And part of working with your treatment provider. An educational consultant, your, your local area resources is, is how I would put this together. I think first and foremost, number one has to be that home environment. Is it, is it been reestablished that the parents are the parents and that the child is allowing the parent to parent them in that home? 

And so if that’s been reestablished through treatment, that kids come back into the home, they’ve had enough visits where they’re allowing the parents to parent them, that environment is going to be ideal. Throughout the whole process, the kiddo is saying, you can’t parent me. I won’t follow your rules. 

You can’t set those boundaries. I’m not going to have our curfew. You’re going to know almost immediately that their success is going to be really, really low. So first and foremost, and that environment may mean that whatever chaos was going on there before has to be resolved, meaning mom and dad need to be on the same page. 

Marital stuff needs to be sorted out, rules and expectations need to be fixed. So home environment is number one. Kids need to be able to allow their parents to parent them and, and respect that process within the home environment. If that hasn’t been reestablished, you’re going to have a lot of struggles. 

number two is your education. there has to be an education process that is allowing the kid to feel empowered through educating themselves. Meaning that if you’re going to put them back into the same environment where they struggled academically before. And they’re not prepared to reenter that environment, you’re going to go right back to where you’re at. 

So you may need to fully look at education totally different than you were before, and it needs to be established before the kid’s back home. And so to me, there’s that education component, This is how my kid learns. This is the best environment for him to learn. And so I know he wants to go to back to high school with his buddies, but the truth of the matter is he can’t learn in that environment. 

So he needs to be in a private small school with lots of tutoring and, and lots of one on one for him to be successful. And that has to trump the social piece of of whatever we’re thinking education wise So if it’s a 17 year old who has a senior year or junior year of school That educational environment makes all the difference if they’ll be successful long term or not third I think is that piece that we’re talking about but there has to be an engagement in some sort of physical activity sports arts there’s got to be interest that people are pursuing outside of just Chilling with their buddies There’s got to be something that they do, that they can put time and focus into because we know the number one reason kids report using us because they’re bored, right? 

So we got to, we got to help feel and kids need to have that figured out before they get back home. That’s why for us, like the snowboarding, the wakeboarding, you can do that almost anywhere. You, you can find places to do that in big cities. Now, like there’s rock climbing gyms all over. 

There’s, you can mountain bike in almost every major park. And, and, and so there’s gotta be a little passion around that music. I know for you, like for your son cutting hair, like whatever it is that they can just grab onto that can give them a sense of self. If we can have that part of that transition program, then that’s, that’s ideal. 

And then the fourth piece for me is not always necessarily for 15, 16 year old. And we talked about this a little bit, but a job. Yes, a job, a job is like the greatest relapse preventer I’ve ever seen in my life, like even a part time job working at the pizza place can make all the difference in the sense of how a person feels about themselves. 

And this isn’t only true for adolescents or addicts. This is true for all of us. what we do in the sense of employment. Literally can make all the difference in how we feel and see ourselves that can affect our marriages, our children, like what we do for a job really matters and not that we can all have the perfect job that we just love and it’s our passion, but you can’t have a job that’s still in your soul either because that that’ll bleed into the rest of your life, but for a young kid getting a part time job, sticking to that job, earning some money, Can be super powerful and then finally just really quickly access to a vehicle or a car I think having a car can be a really powerful thing It’s one thing parents can really focus on and and actually control a little bit You can have access to this vehicle if you’re managing this stuff If not, it’s a no go you can’t let an adolescent have a car who’s actively using and you’re paying for the insurance like That’s one piece you can really manage. 

So I try to set up This across all those domains with my kiddos going home and and making sure those are all solid and have been worked out in treatment. And if those are all pretty much in place, you’re going to have a pretty good success rate. You’re going to have a pretty good go at at managing it, even if there is a lapse or relapse in use. 

[00:56:02] Brenda: Yeah. And, and I reinforce that all the time. And that if they do come home and have a lapse or a full relapse, that does not mean that the treatment failed. It is absolutely, it adds, it builds and builds and builds. It’s that foundation that they need. And I think that can be a big pit that parents fall into is, okay, they’re back and now they’re using again. 

It is not a failure. It is, it is devastating for sure. And it can be very confusing, but it does not mean that that’s going to be forever.  

[00:56:39] Derek: Yeah. And if I think if you look at these five things, Brenda, you’ll have seen that one or two of those things started to give way before the relapse happened. So you’ll see that the education, the grades started to be poor. 

Their, their connection, or they stopped doing the things that they love. They’re, they’re not, they got an injury. And so they’re not able to go, mountain bike. It also gives you the, the roads, how to get back on track. Okay. We have the laps or the relapse. Now let’s go back and focus not on the drug use, but on how do we get education back on track? 

How do we get them back working a part time job? What’s going on in the home environment that’s caused the shift? and it gives you the roadmap to how to get it back on track as well.  

[00:57:22] Brenda: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that was true with, with my son and that in high school while, even while he was still using, he ended up somehow managing to get a job at Burger King. 

I have no idea how, but he did and he loved that job. And this was the kid who was too cool for school, right? But somehow for some reason he loved that job at Burger King. And that was one thing that he would always do. Always show up for, he would always be sober for, I will say mostly so before. 

And so that was a really big clue when he got out of the hospital and we got him moved and he was starting to rebuild. We knew that. A job was going to be a crucial part of it. He wasn’t so much into the sports and all of that. He is now loves working out. But like you said, you pick that one thing, that clue that success leaves clues. 

And so you pick that thing and for him, a job was it. And, and I think parents can often, I wouldn’t have said, Oh, you should go get a job at Burger King. sometimes we try to overachieve our kids by, Oh, you could get a job at this telemarketing company or whatever. who cares? Let them work at Burger King. 

[00:58:34] Derek: My buddy’s friend.  

[00:58:35] Brenda: Yeah,  

[00:58:35] Derek: 100%. They’ll show up to the job. Let them do it, man.  

[00:58:41] Brenda: And wearing the crazy Burger King hat, he loved that. So anyway, that was a tangent, but I want to respect your time and get you out of here, but I would love to hear if there’s anything that you’re excited or positive about right now, when you think about, the young people that you serve about mental health, about substance use, is there anything that sort of is lighting you up? 

[00:59:05] Derek: Yeah, I, I do think this overall approach to mental health. Is super exciting to me. I do think that the awareness the insight that willingness for young kids and families to really take a look at mental health as a priority in Is exciting and I think it’s only going to get more and more to the front of our our education and our social justice stuff like this, this is going to be the next step like really addressing mental health issues and interpersonal relationships and all that really Healthy stuff is where we’re headed. 

And I think we’re going to put resources and finances. I think insurances are going to have to to really start being Mandated to take care of that. And so I think to me we’re just we’re just at this emerging of of information that’s going to allow us to really help young people in a way that we never have before and so That will ultimately then lead to really engaging the addiction piece for young people and and helping them better manage that. 

truthfully still right now, drug use is at an all time low right suicide rates in some areas are Are ticking up and in other areas are dramatically dropping off urban areas where kids have resources and access to mental health Suicide rates are dropping not going up in rural areas where there’s no resources and they’re going up So overall, they’re ticking up a touch, but where we have resources, we’re really, we’re really making a dent in that. 

And so I think as as we look over the next 10, 20 years, I think it’s going to be an emerging of all of that information with technology and we’re going to see a real shift in how we approach it and treat mental health with young people and And it’ll be towards the end of my career and i’ll be finishing up but but it’ll be exciting to see nevertheless  

[01:00:55] Brenda: you’ll be passing the torch to somebody who’s there to pick it up because there is, I, I agree. 

I think there’s one of the silver linings also out of Covid is that mental health is now on our, the two of our tongues. And it is not the dirty thing in the back closet. That’s Ooh, everybody’s talking about it. And so I do think that that’s an incredible blessing that came out of all of this, is that we can say to our kids Now, how’s your mental health this week? 

I love it. And they don’t look at us like. Oh,  

[01:01:28] Derek: yeah,  

[01:01:31] Brenda: I think that’s amazing. thank you so much. This is incredible. I think it’s going to help a lot of parents just get some context for what’s going on. It’s a confusing time. So getting some, Some solid information and and the fact that you’re you’re in this day in and day out I mean you got you got a bunch of kids living in your homes and so you’re no one is closer to the The real deal than you so I appreciate you coming on and sharing all that with us  

[01:01:58] Derek: A hundred percent. 

Thank you. I always enjoy it. And it was good to talk.  

[01:02:01] Brenda: Yes. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening. If you would like to go to the show notes, you can always find those at brendazane. com forward slash podcast. Each episode is listed there with full transcript, all of the resources that we mentioned as well as a place to leave comments. 

If you would like to do that, you might also want to download a free ebook I wrote called hindsight. Three things I wish I knew when my son was addicted to drugs. It’s full of the information I wish I would have known when my son was struggling with his addiction. You can grab that at brendazane. com forward slash hindsight. 

Thanks again for listening and I will meet you right back here next week.

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