Suspicions that your child is using drugs may lead you to wonder if you should drug test your teenager at home. The reality is complex; there may be times when a drug test is necessary; other times it may be downright counterproductive.
Risks of Drug Testing Your Child
Drug testing kids may seem like an effective way to prevent them from abusing substances, but there is great debate surrounding this theory. Drug testing also brings the potential for unintended consequences, including the following.
Damage to the Parent-Child Relationship
One controversy surrounding drug testing kids is that it can significantly damage the relationship between a teen and his or her parents. Building trust between parent and child is important during the adolescent years, as teens should feel comfortable discussing concerns with their parents and receiving guidance, instead of feeling like they need to lie or cover up their actions.
If a parent subjects a teen to drug testing, the teen may feel like the parent is distrustful. In fact, experts do not recommend home drug testing, because there is a potential for a negative effect on the parent-child relationship.
Potential for Misinterpretation of Results
Another potential controversy of drug testing kids is that parents can misinterpret drug test results. For example, researchers have indicated that home drug tests can create false-positive and false-negative results.
If a teen is taking certain antibiotics, for instance, this can cause a reaction that produces a positive test result for opiates. In addition, a teen may be taking a prescription drug, such as ADHD medication, it can produce a positive screening result, and a parent may mistakenly conclude that the child is abusing illicit drugs.
It is also possible that a teen who is using drugs can test negative if the drug test was performed too long after the teen last used any substances. According to LabCorp, amphetamines can be cleared from the urine in as little as one day. If a parent performs a home drug test more than 24 hours after a teen last used meth, for instance, the child may test negative, and the parent will falsely believe the teen is not using drugs.
Tampering of Results
In addition to creating problems in the parent-child relationship and the potential for parents to misinterpret results, home drug testing results can be problematic due to the potential for teens to tamper with the testing. According to experts, teens can alter drug test results by drinking significant amounts of water to dilute their urine, by using someone else’s urine, or by using products intended to alter test results.
Is Drug Testing Kids Effective?
There are controversies surrounding drug testing a teenager at home, but some parents may still wonder if drug testing kids is an effective method for reducing drug use.
According to one study, drug testing may even prove ineffective at deterring teens from using drugs. In the study, 34 percent of teens at a school that implemented random drug tests stated they were likely to use drugs in the future, compared to 33 percent at a school that didn’t implement drug testing during the study.
There is a further concern that research shows that when schools implement drug testing, there are few positive test results, and many students, therefore, are not referred to treatment. Based upon this finding, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not support school-based drug testing, as there is limited evidence that it is actually effective.
What if the Test is Positive?
While there are some concerns about the effectiveness of home drug testing, some parents may choose to drug test their teens to confirm a suspicion of drug use. A positive test result indicates that talking to your teenager about drugs is necessary. Through an open, honest conversation, you may learn more about the reason for the positive test result.
If you choose to conduct a home drug test and your child tests positive, it is also important to talk to a professional about teen drug abuse. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents seek a professional assessment when they have concerns about a teen using drugs.
Home drug testing can be beneficial when it produces a positive result that accurately identifies an adolescent who is abusing substances and is in need of treatment. If a child tests positive on a home drug test, a medical professional should discuss the test results with the teen and interpret them. Based upon information gathered from the teen and the parents, it can be determined whether there is a true concern of substance abuse. Teens who test positive and demonstrate other signs of drug abuse may be referred to as teen drug rehab.
Levy, Sharon, and Siqueira, Lorena. “Testing for drugs of abuse in children and adolescents.” Pediatrics, June 2014. Accessed August 8, 2019.
LabCorp. “Drug of Abuse Reference Guide.” Accessed August 9, 2019.
National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. “The Effectiveness of mandatory-random student drug testing.” July 2010. Accessed August 8, 2019.
Levy, Sharon, and Schizer, Miriam. “Adolescent drug testing policies in schools.” Pediatrics, April 2015. Accessed August 9, 2019.