Setting boundaries on a friend or family member’s addiction

Nov 17, 2022, 3:04 PM | Updated: 3:05 pm

A Utah psychiatry expert joined KSL NewsRadio's Dave and Dujanovic to discuss how friends and famil...

After the death of a prominent band member this week, a Utah psychiatrist answers questions about how a family can set boundaries when it comes to a loved one's addiction (Canva)


SALT LAKE CITY — How do you set boundaries on a friend’s or a loved one’s addiction? The question comes after the death of a once-prominent singer at the age of 34.

A member of the Backstreet Boys died young

TMZ broke the story that singer Aaron Carter was found dead in a bathtub on Nov. 5 at his Lancaster, California home.  Law enforcement officers said they discovered canisters of compressed air scattered about the area. 

By Thursday afternoon, an official cause of death was categorized as deferred, meaning more tests are needed to determine what exactly killed him.

According to TMZ, “Aaron had tons of legal and substance abuse issues over the years … infamously going on ‘The Doctors’ a couple of years ago and talking about all the pills he was taking. He also went to rehab numerous times.”

Nick Carter, Backstreet Boys frontman, is Aaron’s brother. He told fans his heart was “broken” over the loss.

“Even though my brother and I have had a complicated relationship, my love for him has never ever faded,” Nick wrote in an Instagram tribute as reported by Entertainment Tonight.

A Utah doctor weighs in on addiction and setting boundaries

Dr. Elizabeth Howell, professor of Psychiatry at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, joined KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss setting boundaries with a friend or loved one’s addiction.

Nick Carter … said he had to cut off his relationship with this baby brother due to his addiction, and that forming boundaries was a really difficult choice to make, and something that’s hard for people on the outside to understand,” Debbie began.

“This has got to be one of the most difficult parts of the addiction process. When you have somebody you love, whether it’s a mom, a dad, brother, sister, whoever it might be … what role should you play,” Dave asked.

“What role can you play because you want to be there as a support, to be able to anchor them in some way. But at the same time, you can’t drown right along with them.”

Think twice about addiction boundaries that include “tough love”

Howell began by asking people to think twice about the concept of “tough love” when thinking about addiction and boundaries.

“I don’t think there’s any one right answer for every family, but I think we’ve gotten away from the whole idea of just tough love [in other words], you cut them off and let them go experience consequences,” Howell said.

Families can find a compromise between cutting off an addicted loved one, and continuing to enable the addiction.

“You want to look into the middle ground where you’re still caring or still available. But (where) you are taking care of yourself. You are protecting yourself. And sometimes it does get to the point where you have to completely cut somebody off,” Howell said. “So that might have been the most appropriate thing to happen for the Carter family.”

Suggestions for Utahns dealing with addiction in their families

Because most relatives want to help their addicted loved one, she recommended a program called Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness, or USARA.

“(Research has shown it to be) a very effective way for family members to deal with their loved one’s addiction. Both to protect themselves and to keep their sanity and their boundaries. But also a more effective way to help their loved one get into treatment or get into recovery,” Howell said.


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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Setting boundaries on a friend or family member’s addiction