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Should Concerned Parents Drug-Test Their Child?

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Should Concerned Parents Drug-Test Their Child?

Today’s parents are faced with many challenges that put them in a position to question how far they should go in protecting their child.  For instance, if they suspect their teen is experimenting with drugs or alcohol, is it an invasion of privacy to go through their room? Or, is it overstepping parental bounds to consider drug-testing their teen? These are difficult decisions, but loving parents want to do whatever they can to prevent their child from making poor choices that lead to serious consequences.  So, is drug-testing your teen the right approach, or not?

What You Should Know About Drug-Testing Teens

Are you one of those parents who is still on the fence about whether to drug-test your child?  If so, here are some things to consider. Testing your child makes a lot of sense. However, many experts advise against it unless it is done by a medical professional.  Let’s take a look at some of the questions you should ask before drug-testing your child:

Does Timing Matter?

All drugs react differently in the body.  Random testing provides the element of surprise, but there is a possibility that the timing is off and the results will be negative, even if your child has used a drug in the past few days.  For example, marijuana can remain in the system and cause a positive test result for several days or even a month, depending on the frequency of use and amount used. But, if your teen is using cocaine, heroin, or meth, these drugs usually leave the system within one to three days.  

Is Drug-Testing an Invasion of Privacy?

This is a tough choice for parents.  On the one hand, they feel justified in doing whatever they can to safeguard their child.  But, insisting on drug-testing can be perceived as a breach of trust. Your parent/child relationship can be adversely affected, leaving your child to feel betrayed and untrustworthy.  Parents must also consider how their child will react to the testing if indeed they never had any intention of using drugs.

Which Test is the Most Accurate?

A kit purchased from the pharmacy might test for one drug but will not detect others.  So far, no single test will detect all substances. For instance, a standard urine and saliva kit will detect marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and PCP.  But, a more sophisticated test will detect benzodiazepines methadone, barbiturates, and some prescription painkillers. Also, there are expensive, specialized tests for detecting LSD, inhalants, or mushrooms.

One alternative to the above is hair-testing.  It’s important to know that this option can be skewed by the rate of hair growth and often won’t detect drug use in the last week to ten days.  Also, these tests can be affected by cosmetics and hair products such as dyes or bleaches in the hair. This type of test is not the best option for occasional or recent drug use detection.  

Another alternative is a saliva test.  This kit can detect drugs before the substance is detectable in the urine.  But, young people know how to generate more saliva to dilute the test. They also know that smoking a cigarette will skew the results.  Also, kids who smoke marijuana will switch to K2 or Spice to beat a marijuana drug test, and this can have dangerous consequences. To get an accurate result using a saliva test, you should supervise your child for 30 minutes before testing.

Are You Prepared to Observe?

Most teens today are familiar with ways to get around a drug-test.  For instance, they know that bleach or other chemicals will adulterate a urine test.  Also, they have information on where to purchase or borrow clean urine. If you are ready to conduct the test and your child claims he or she is not ready to pee right now or can’t do it while you’re watching, be prepared to make a tough decision.

Is It Best to Let Professionals Do the Drug Screening?

Some experts are not advocates of home drug testing.  In fact, Dr. Sharon Levy, Director, Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital had this to say about the subject,

“I am not at all convinced that drug testing is useful as a preventive tool; it is a terrible tool for identifying use (since most teen and young adult drug use is sporadic, which is very unlikely to be picked up by a random test), and it is certainly not a stand-alone treatment for a substance use disorder.”  

Dr. Levy recommends that if you suspect your child is using a substance, speak with a health professional.  

How to Talk to Your Child About Suspected Drug Use

Approaching your son or daughter about their drug use, or suspected drug use, can be disastrous if you go about it the wrong way.  To get some ideas on how to start this conversation with your child, read these tips.

If you would like more information about drug-testing your child, please contact us at our toll-free number today.  One of our experts will be available to answer your questions any time day or night.

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