Should I Home Drug Test My Child?

There’s a tough question. Usually, there are two reasons why parents think about making their child submit to a home drug test – to find out if they’re using, or to prevent them from using. Before a parent rushes out to buy a home test kit, though, there are a few things that should be considered.

Testing as a Preventive Measure

A lot of parents believe that if their kids know they’ll be regularly tested for drug use at home, they’ll be less inclined to use drugs. The research, however, suggests that testing isn’t really going to provide a whole lot of peace of mind. For openers, home kits aren’t all that reliable. This is for a couple of reasons – first, if kids know they’re going to be tested, they’ll try to find ways to cheat. With a home test, this is considerably more do-able than it is in a lab, using a test that’s proven and administered by a qualified, trained technician. The chances of a false positive or negative are much higher with home kits, because parents may not know how to properly collect the specimen, and because not all kits are created equally – some simply aren’t worth the money.

Tests to Determine if the Child is Using

Home kits aren’t comprehensive. A parent could buy a home kit to test for one type of drug, and the child could simply switch to another. The test comes up negative, and the parent has a false sense of security. And again, because home kits aren’t always reliable, there could be a false positive that causes unnecessary heartache.

Additionally, there’s a lot of emotion involved – a single positive result doesn’t necessarily mean that a child is a hard-core drug addict. He or she could simply have been dabbling. A professional drug tester can determine the level and frequency of usage in the event of a genuine positive – this isn’t possible with home tests.

There Are Better Methods

According to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), parents are far better off consulting the family pediatrician concerning ways to identify drug use in children. A parent’s instincts are usually the best indicator of whether a child is using drugs. Also, a home test can irretrievably break down the level of communication between parent and child, particularly if a false positive is recorded. Teens in particular can see a forced drug test as a violation of their rights.

If parents absolutely must test, it’s better to have it done professionally by a trained technician. It’s a sad commentary on our society that professional drug test technicians can now look forward to a niche market in testing children and teens at the behest of their parents. One envisions mobile testers going door to door in response to frantic calls from parents who may or may not have reason for concern. Great for employment opportunities in the testing sector, but for positive social outcomes? Perhaps not so much.



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