Partnership For Drug-Free Kids
By: Celia Vimont
January 5, 2017

Setting new household rules for teens in treatment for a substance use disorder can be challenging for parents. But it is important because research shows that teens do take their parents’ attitudes, opinions and beliefs into account when they make choices about substance use, says Christopher Hammond, M.D., Medical Director of the Johns Hopkins Co-Occurring Disorders in Adolescents (CODA) Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD.

By the time families begin treatment for a teen’s substance use disorder, parents are often emotionally drained and burnt out, says Dr. Hammond, who is also assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins. “We tell parents that one of the major ways they can provide positive support for their teen’s recovery is by taking a close look at how they set and enforce rules in their house and consider resetting their household rules to promote abstinence,” he says. Not only will consistently setting and enforcing rules help their teen, but it can help the family as a whole and take some tension out of the household. Dr. Hammond spoke about working with parents and families to improve outcomes for teens with substance use disorder at the recent American Association of Addiction Psychiatrymeeting.

It is very important for parents to firmly establish a rule prohibiting drug or alcohol use, even if they previously allowed their teen to drink or use drugs in the house alone or with friends. Dr. Hammond notes, “Being the ‘cool parent’ who lets teens drink at their house is not only illegal but also associated with poorer outcomes for teens in treatment for substance use disorders.” Allowing drug and alcohol use at home is associated with poorer outcome for teens who are in treatment.

Along with explaining the rules, parents need to tell their teen the rules are meant to keep them safe and healthy. “We tell parents to explain the impact of drug and alcohol use on teen brain development—there is no good reason for teens to be using drugs or alcohol.” He also urges parents to assign teens chores to give them a sense of responsibility.

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