Drug testing your teen at home for drug use may be conceived as a straightforward approach, but it’s probably not the best way. There are many home drug testing kits available in the market, but are not always reliable, and your teen may be reluctant to being tested.
The best approach would be to consult your pediatrician, who may help assess if your teen has a drug problem without doing any lab tests. The doctor may conduct confidential interviews and questionnaires with your teen, order a lab test if warranted, process and interpret as appropriate.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) defends involuntary drug tests and parents cannot force their teens to take a drug test.
Drug Testing Your Teen
Teen drug use is a grievous problem and drug testing teens suspecting substance use may create hard feelings.
The availability of home drug testing kits in the market makes it easier for parents to test their teens for illegal substance use, though it is not the best idea to approach. There are some drawbacks associated with this approach if parents decide to drug test their teens.
Parents generally consider home drug testing for two reasons:
If parents consider home drug testing as a preventive measure assuming their children will decrease or stop using drugs if they are going to be tested on a regular basis, this theory isn’t probably going to work. A study conducted among high school students showed that random drug testing had little effect in bringing down the percentage of alcohol and drug users.
Children may be experimenting on different kinds of drugs or illicit substances. When you drug test your teen, there are possibilities that they have switched to another kind of drug and the test might show not using any drugs at all. This is because you might be testing for one set of drugs and it creates a false sense of security believing your kid is not using any substances.
Another problem with home drug testing is attempting to cheat. If the kids have access to the Internet and involved in illicit substance use, they can easily find ways to cheat on drug tests.
If there is a difference in the child’s behavior or attitude and suspect it to be due to drug abuse, then home drug testing can be considered for investigative purposes. This doesn’t really accomplish much except making your assumption to be true.
If the parents suspect their kids to be using drugs or alcohol, they can try talking to them openly. If kids feel hesitant to open up or try to avoid, consulting with their family physician or pediatrician would be the best approach to tackle along with professional assessment and treatment plan if warranted.
It is also important for the parents to know that drug testing their kids at home might:
- Impair their relationship with the child.
- Testing with or without the consent could severely weaken the parent-child relationship.
- Forced testing could drive the teens to perceive violation of their rights.
- Damage relationship and lead to other behavioral problems.
According to American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), drug test should be conducted under the knowledge of teens and with their consent.
Steps Towards Drug Testing Your Teen
Under certain circumstances where parents want to consider drug testing their child must take care to do it right. If the test is poorly administered, it can make it worse than none at all.
The four important elements can be followed to have an effective drug test:
- Random Test
- Frequency of Testing
- Different Drug Testing Methods
A teen can spoof the test even if one of the elements is missing. This can create a high-risk situation where parents believe their child is clean and sober, and stop paying attention. In the meantime, the child’s drug abuse and underlying mental disorder if any goes unnoticed and remains untreated.
1. Random Test
It is necessary that a teen does not know when a drug test will be administered. Teens that use drugs or alcohol are well aware how long ingested drugs and alcohol will stay in their system to test positive. If the teens know when a test is going to be administered, they will try to temporarily abstain from using drugs or alcohol to avoid detection
Parents can test their teens randomly on a weekly basis to make the testing is effective. Testing first thing in the morning would be ideal since the child’s urine will be most concentrated and the teen is not completely conscious to try to be trickery.
Parents have to observe their teens from obtaining the urine sample to reading the results. Teens might try to fake the test by adding adulterants or use someone else’s urine. There are many devices available in the market that contain clean urine as well as battery operated devices that fit in the palm of the hand to warm the urine. Teens may try all possible ways to escape detection.
A parent should stand as near as possible to be able to know the teen is not doing anything tricky and should be able to hear the urine going into the bottle. It is hard to duplicate the distinct sound of a urine stream going into a bottle. When the bottle is handed, fresh urine will have a number of bubbles at the top and will be hot to the touch.
Parents can remove the cap and give only the bottle to their teens for a urine catch. Parents can then inspect the sample and its temperature once the bottle is handed over to them.
3. Frequency of Testing
Frequent drug testing may deter teens from using alcohol or drugs. Parents can drug test their teens at least twice a week. Frequent multiple tests can make the teens appalled that they can be tested anytime.
Sporadic drug testing may contribute towards addiction rather than cessation. Hence, parents should take full responsibility towards getting their teens come out clean and to remain sober.
If concerned about the cost of frequent testing, parents can administer tests twice or thrice weekly, but send one sample weekly to the lab for analysis. By doing this, the teen wouldn’t know which sample is going to be sent and this will result in deterrence.
4. Different Drug Testing Methods
There are different testing methods to screen for drugs and alcohol. Each drug testing method has its own strengths and limitations. Parents can screen their children not only with urine test, but also do saliva test (drugs) and breathalyzer test (alcohol).
Just doing one testing method, children may find different ways to fake the test to come out clean. Parents may choose to administer various testing methods on their children, in which case teens wouldn’t know which testing method is going to be administered on them, hence more chances of deterrence against substance or alcohol use.
For instance, if parents suspect their kid to be using drugs or alcohol despite testing clean on a urine test, the parent can choose to administer a different testing method such as saliva test or a breathalyzer the next time to confirm indeed the kid is sober.
Thoughts To Ponder
If parents are concerned that their children might be abusing drugs or alcohol, they should handle it with care and seriousness. Parents should attempt a conversation with their teens and make them feel comfortable to open up their problems. By having a two-way conversation, parents can discuss about specific things and their concerns. Parents should also allow their kids to talk freely and listen to them. This type of conversation can help parents to understand what is going on and what can be done to help their teens.
Many parents try to keep their child’s drug abuse within the family and keep them out of treatment until the problem becomes too big to ignore. Most parents are generally either overly permissive or aggressive. Parents should set boundaries and limits to their kids and enforce rules when the kid considers unjust.
Concerned parents can start off by talking to their primary care physician or pediatrician. The doctor might hold a confidential conversation with the teen and assess the situation. If warranted, they might order appropriate lab tests as well as recommend specialists or treatment centers that can help both the parent and the child. Parents should be supportive of their children before and after treatment, and help them reclaim their health, strength and hope.
Parents need to build a safe place for their children and create awareness of their family values and create the idea of drugs less appealing. Parents should shower their love and support to their children, and set limits and boundaries to keep them safe no matter what strife it might cause.
Demanding or compelling teens to drug test may contribute towards aggressive behaviors and drive them to perceive violation of their privacy. This will further teens to be less communicative and increase their drug use.
Communication between parents and children is most important and plays a vital role for healthy relationship. Parents can initiate healthy talks with their children about drug abuse and its adverse effects on the overall physical and mental health.