At-home drug tests damage family trust

Seeing a teen grow can lead a parent to worry about their health.

Drug use can start at a young age. Slow experimental trials for teens can begin in middle school and escalate into their first years of highschool. Drugs can range from marijuana, alcohol, over the counter painkillers or even harder drugs. As a parent it’s their job to protect their kid while still maintaining trust. 

If a parent decides to run a drug test, they should think twice before doing so. There are multiple outcomes from simply doing an in-home drug test.

Reasoning behind most teens taking drugs are peer pressure and curiosity. Drug testing can be a dangerous move that can potentially harm a teens health and growth.The main idea behind parent drug testing is fear. A parent can feel embarrassed, ashamed or scared  for their child. One small decision a teen makes can lead to a path of downfall. 

A drug test can be both a good and bad thing. It all depends on how a parent approaches it. The parent does not want to barge into their teens room and expect them to be ready for a test. If a parent does take the wrong approach, it can lead to losing trust and that close family relationship. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) opposes any form of parent drug test. Their belief is that the teen should know beforehand about taking it. Doing so without the teens knowledge and consent is seen as an invasion of privacy. Dr. Sharon Levy, Director of Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital said, “I am not at all convinced that drug testing is useful as a preventive tool; it is a terrible tool for identifying use.” 

Drug test kits are available at most pharmacies for cheap. While parents think that these kits can spot what kind of drugs their kids are using, they can miss how teens can manipulate the results. For example, for urine drug tests, teens can borrow urine to change the results. Simply adding water and bleach can be another level of manipulation. At the same time teens can have excuses to not take a urine test. These possible outcomes can later lead to heated arguments.

Some drug tests aren’t as reliable as you think. Teenagers think outside the box for situations that involve drugs. They can get pretty articulate such as replacing certain drugs with other options. For example they could replace marijuana with K2/Spice which is a chemical compound found in the marijuna plant. 

Dr. Sheila P. Vakharia,  who is policy manager and social worker for the Office of Academic Engagement at the Drug Policy Alliance, explained the cons of doing drug tests on children. “Critically, demanding a drug test is a punishment in itself.  What would’ve been the outcome if the test came back negative for the parent? How would they respond? What if it was positive?” A parents expressions towards any outcome would be damaging in it of itself. Each parent needs to understand that there is no need for anger or frustration.

Talking to a professional such as a pediatrician is the best way to team up and see if your teen is using drugs. Of course things need to be kept in private, but if the pediatrician sees some sort of immediate risk, they will have to  notify the parent. The parent and pediatrician can work together to get reliable lab results, ranging from urine samples to a blood test, and then can help the child with any drug related issues. If for whatever reason a parent suspects their teens of using drugs, it is best to talk with a professional before involving themselves.

Parents should understand that many teens have their own struggles, and involving themselves so heavily in a child’s life could cause trust issues in the future.