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Setting Boundaries When Living With a Drug-Dependent Adolescent

By Kathryn Hatter ; Updated September 26, 2017
An adolescent who develops an addiction needs fast and firm intervention.

The teen years are difficult enough without adding drug-dependency to the list of challenges. When your adolescent battles a drug addiction, the landscape can change significantly for your family to include steep peaks and rugged valleys. Setting boundaries will be an important and ongoing task to ensure that the addicted adolescent conducts herself appropriately.

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Treatment Plans

Participate in whatever treatment plan professionals devise for your teenager. One treatment option that might be appropriate for a teenager who has only been using for a short time includes outpatient care with classes, individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy. For teenagers with a significant addiction, inpatient care is probably necessary, advises associate professor J.L. Matheson with the Colorado State University Extension. Your teen will spend a specific number of days in inpatient care, then treatment will transfer to outpatient care with the teenager likely to be back in your home again. Speak with the therapists and counselors to receive guidance for setting boundaries with your adolescent.

Setting Boundaries

Communicate the boundaries you insist that your teenager follow clearly with your child, advises the Focus Adolescent Services website. Your boundaries might include a zero-tolerance policy for any and all drug or alcohol use by your teenager. You might also insist that your teenager participate with all treatment-plan guidelines, follow house rules, behave respectfully and communicate honestly with you. It’s likely that your adolescent will lie to you to hide drug use. Hiding the truth out of fear and shame will be so important to the teenager that he will probably lie to conceal any mistakes he makes.

Communicating Boundaries

So no misunderstandings exist, tell your teenager what will happen if she breaks your boundaries, recommends the Newport Academy Teen Treatment Center. Possible consequences include informing therapists or treatment personnel of the breach and allowing logical consequences connected with the treatment program to occur. You might also warn your child that she cannot live under your roof if she continues to make negative decisions about her conduct and to violate your boundaries.


Keep your word with your teenager to ensure your boundaries remain intact. It’s common for families of addicts to have trouble setting and maintaining boundaries -- a hallmark of codependent behavior, according to Scripps Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program. If you don’t keep your boundaries, the result is continued enabling of the adolescent, which will not promote recovery and could lead to continued escalation of the addiction.

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About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

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