If your teen child has been caught doing drugs, you may be feeling unsure about how to handle this difficult and complicated situation. A single incident of drug use doesn’t necessarily warrant drug treatment, but if it’s a pattern, or if you suspect your child is not being honest with you, then you now face some difficult decisions. Do you force your child into drug treatment, or do trust punishment to work? Do you seek professional help, or do you handle it privately? These are not easy choices.

While every teen is different, there are some general guidelines for determining when a young person needs drug treatment. Of course, it can’t hurt to consult a drug treatment professional on these matters, but you can also make this decision on your own.

The most obvious sign that your teen needs drug treatment is if he or she has been caught using drugs repeatedly. This indicates either that your punishments have not gotten through, that his or her desire to abuse drugs is overwhelming, or both. In any case, it’s clear that more drastic measures are needed.

Another huge risk factor is an association of teen drug use with other dangerous behaviors. For example, if your teen drives recklessly or has unprotected sex in addition to using drugs, this is a sign that things have spiraled out of control and that he may be a danger to himself. This situation definitely warrants drug treatment, and the sooner the better.

Finally, another thing that should raise red flags is if your teen’s drug abuse is creating a polluted atmosphere in the home that affects other children in the household. Especially if the teen is mean or abusive to his or her siblings, you might want to consider taking them out of the situation and getting them help before it has ripple effects on your entire family. If this is a problem in your household, talk to a treatment professional.