Learn about home drug tests and how they are administered.

You may find that drug testing is necessary when you suspect someone close to you is using drugs. Many times those who find it necessary to drug test someone close to them are parents who have a teenager they suspect may be using drugs. There are several types of home drug tests that can be used to find out if your teenager is using drugs, and learning how to administer these tests can be the difference between finding out if your teenager is using drugs or not.

Is Your Teen Using Drugs?

Many parents wonder if their teen may be using substances. Regardless of your background or status, your teen may be exposed to peers who use drugs, and you could be completely unaware of it. There are warning signs that should trigger you to suspect that your teenager is using drugs and examine this possibility more closely.

Some warning signs of teen substance abuse include:

  • Poor performance at school
  • Deceptive behavior
  • Acting strange or differently
  • Being more tired or sleepy than normal
  • Being more hyper than normal
  • Smelling like alcohol or drugs
  • Increased forgetfulness
  • Decreases in personal hygiene
  • Frequently being late or forgetting obligations

If your teen is exhibiting any of these warning signs, then you may consider using a home drug test to find out if your teenager is using drugs.

When to Drug Test Your Teen

If you are considering testing your teen for drugs, know that some experts view doing so as potentially damaging to your relationship with your teenager. Drug testing your teen may be the right decision, but you should carefully weigh the negative consequences with the benefits.

If you do notice signs of drug use in your teen and decide to perform an at-home drug test, then the timing for this test should be random and unexpected. Doing a home drug test right after you have indicated you are suspicious may give your teen time to prepare. Teens that use drugs and are expecting a drug test may try to clear a drug from their system or try to find a way to get around the test. If your teen is showing symptoms of drug use, it may also be a good time to test them, as it will still likely be detectable if it is causing symptoms.

Where to Get a Home Drug Test

You can get a home drug test kit from a variety of sources. The type of kit needed will also determine its availability. If marijuana is all you need to test for, you can typically get a marijuana test kit at most convenience stores. However, parents will typically want to test for a broader range of drugs. Most pharmacies sell drug test kits that will test for substances that are commonly abused, and you can also purchase home drug test kits online. Just keep in mind that you should only purchase these tests from a reputable online source. Testing for alcohol may require a separate test.

Administering a Home Drug Test for Teens

When using an at-home drug test, it is vital to ensure that you have an accurate sample. Teens who have used drugs may try to supply you with something besides urine, or urine that is not their own or not fresh. Teens may do this by hiding someone else’s urine in a bag in their pants and then pretend to urinate while emptying the bag into a cup. There are multiple ways to fake giving a true sample while not actually providing the sample yourself.

Each urine drug test is different, depending on the manufacturer, but there are certain components that are typically consistent. Once you have the sample, you will typically apply the sample to a collection site in the test. The test will have to develop for a certain length of time that depends on the test purchased. Most tests will have two lines for each substance being tested. One line is a control line that should always be present and which tests that the test is actually working and valid. The second line is the test line, and if the test line is present, even faintly, it means the test for that drug is negative. If there is no line, it means the test is positive. Each test may vary, and you should carefully read the instructions on how to administer the test and interpret its results before you use it.

  • Understanding the Detection Window: When you drug test your teen, you should carefully read the instructions to determine how long the drugs can be detected. Often, drugs can only be detected for 1–10 days in the urine, depending on the drug and test.
  • Overlooking Frequently Abused Substances: Your home drug test may be accurate, but will only test for common drugs used by teens. Some substances may not show up on a drug test. Often alcohol will be used, but it is not tested for in a normal home drug test. Related: Does alcohol show up on a drug test
  • False Negatives: A false negative while using a home urine drug test is uncommon, but can occur if your teen has diluted the sample. You should read the instructions of the test you purchase to find the exact false-negative rates for your particular drug test.
  • False Positives: False positive drug tests are rare, but can occur. You should read the instruction manual that comes with your drug test to find substances or conditions that can lead to false positives. For example, energy drinks may cause false positives in some drug test kits.

What to Do If Your Teen’s Drug Test is Positive

If you are using a home drug test for your teen and you get a positive result, then it is very likely that your teen is using a dangerous, potentially addictive substance. Continued substance use can lead your teen to try stronger, more dangerous drugs and raise the risk that they will join the tens of thousands of people who die each year from a drug overdose. Even if your teen does not overdose, they will be more likely to suffer from addiction throughout life if they use substances in their youth, as well as from the negative health and social effects that substance abuse can cause. Immediate intervention is necessary, and you should take your teen to see an addiction specialist to find out if treatments or teen drug rehab may be necessary. By intervening quickly, you will be able to help your teen have the best chance of recovery that they can.

If you have a teen that suffers from addiction, professional help will provide them with their best chance of recovery. The Recovery Village has a strong record of helping teens who are starting to or have already developed addictions. Reach out to one of our understanding team members to learn about options to help your teen start on their path to recovery today. 

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more

American Academy of Pediatrics. “Home Drug Testing: Information for Parents.” June 18, 2014. Accessed Aug. 18, 2019.

National Institute of Drug Abuse. “Overdose Death Rates.” January 2019. Accessed August 18, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.