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Parents: To Test or Not to Test–Home Drug Kits

March 29, 2011

Wednesday (3/30/11) on the 10 p.m.  TV29-FOXNEWS channel, I’ll be a discussant on the pros and cons of at-home drug testing. Parents can now buy at-home drug testing kits, from around $15-$30. Here’s the pitch to worried (or suspicious) parents of teens:  “I really care about you, and by buying this kit, you now have an excuse with your friends to avoid drug use, because you’ll get caught. ” What’s wrong with this pitch?

Buying a drug-testing kit as an insurance policy is a bad first move. You can put lipstick on a pig, and say it’s out of love, but what that drug kit really says, is “I don’t trust you.”  Have a calm talk instead. Expect to have ongoing conversations. If you suspect substance use due to behavioral or academic changes, talk about that. If you want your kid to open up to you, you have to demonstrate your ability to deal with stressful topics in a calm manner. Expect your teen to initially deny and minimize any use. If your suspicions lead  you to decide to test your teen, go to the pros.

Why the pros instead of at-home?

1) Think about the relationship—do you really want to play cops and robbers with your child? Parents try to control what they can’t trust, but with power you get rebellion.

2) Do you really want to supervise a urine collection, by standing in the same room while your adolescent pees in a cup ?

3) Because if your child wants to con you, they’ll go to google and type in how to con a drug test and 900,000 results pop up in 1 minute. I’ve treated substance abusers and there are very clever ways to get around an at-home test.

4) Plus there are false positives (Ibuprofen can come up as marijuana use); Nasal decongestants can come up as amphetamine use.

5) Learn as much as you can. Go to, or call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information (1-800-788-2800).

6) Take your own personal inventory about substance use. What’s your family’s history of problem alcohol or drug use? Are you within the AMA guidelines for either men and women for alcohol use?

7) Set clear rules in your family about drug and alcohol use, and let your kids know that you’ll enforce those rules.

Just say no doesn’t work. Tune in on Wednesday to hear more about this important topic. And please add your comments.


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