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Enabling Teen Addiction

Teen with a marijuana joint in his mouth about to smoke while other teens watch  

When teenagers abuse drugs or struggle with teen addiction, knowing how to react to their present circumstances can be challenging. Parents or guardians that are responsible for teens want to do whatever they can to help their child — sometimes to a fault. However, this very understandable instinct can end up doing more harm than good.

What Does It Mean to Enable Someone?

First, what does it mean to enable someone? Enabling addiction means providing a person with the resources, both physical or mental, to continue doing what they are doing even if the consequences are negative or harmful. Parents who enable bad behavior might contribute to the availability of drugs or provide an environment that makes it easier for teens to obtain drugs. In most cases, enabling addiction is not intentional and parents or guardians are only coming from a place of love.

Why Do Parents Enable?

There are many reasons why a parent may enable teen drug abuse. One simple reason is that parents are in denial about their child’s behavior. Other times, enabling behavior can come from the very best intentions: a genuine and powerful instinct to love and nurture the child. Obviously, parents want to help their children and provide them with the best lives they possibly can. This desire can lead to a powerful sense of guilt if the parent feels inadequate or that they have failed the child in the past. Guilt can be one of the most powerful forces driving the behavior of drug addiction-enabling parents. However, guilt does not need to dictate a parent’s behavior toward their child. Substance use is very complex. It is important to remember that many different genetic and environmental factors contribute to teen addiction, not solely parents.

Behaviors that Indicate You’re Enabling Addiction

What are the typical signs of an enabling parent? To determine if a parent is enabling their teen’s addictive behaviors some signs can be observed. Such signs include:

  • Providing their child with money that funds their substance use
  • Lying to others about their teen to cover up for their poor or declining performance at work or in school
  • Paying their child’s bills or otherwise fulfilling their responsibilities for them at school or in their private lives
  • Turning a blind eye to substance use, perhaps even in their own home despite evidence that suggests a problem
  • Justifying their child’s substance use as an inevitable or natural consequence of their circumstances

How Does Enabling Inhibit Progress?

Even though parents generally have the best intentions, an enabler’s attempts to help can hurt the ones they love. All actions have consequences. Although unpleasant, many teens only must learn through experience the consequences of their bad behavior or actions. By enabling their teenagers, parents are incorrectly protecting their teens. This results in teens never receiving the feedback they need to make wiser choices and decisions in the future. As difficult as it can be to directly address a child’s addiction, it is imperative for the success of their future. Parents and loved ones must stop enabling substance abuse as soon as possible.

Staging a Parent Intervention

How can a parent stop being an enabler? A family enabling addiction can inadvertently end up making the issue worse. One of the first factors that parents enabling grown children or teenagers should consider is how to change their own behavior. They should learn how to stop being an enabler themselves and how to start providing useful and constructive support.

The Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) suggests an upfront and honest intervention model known as ARISE. The ARISE intervention process proceeds in a step-by-step process, with increasing levels of family involvement and formalities along the way. The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests asking for help from a professional as a first step. Staging the intervention from the right perspective is critical. A compassionate yet direct approach can be much more effective at getting teens into treatment.

Stop Enabling: What to Do Instead

The internet can be a great resource, but it can also be daunting and have many confusing opinions. Parents may wonder how to love a teen without enabling them. Instead of enabling their teens, parents should encourage them to enter some form of addiction treatment. Clear rules, boundaries and intentions should be set that if violated would result in real consequences. A teen should not be forced into rehabilitation but must want to enter treatment on their own accord.

Finding Addiction Treatment for Your Teen

There are many available resources all over the United States to help teens struggling with addiction. For example, resources may range from family-based therapy to teen residential treatment. There are also helplines and hotlines that teens and parents can call for information about addiction treatment facilities in Florida.

Contact Next Generation Village to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can benefit your teenager. Take the first step toward a healthier future for your teenager, call today.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


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