Just a few short years ago, giving your child a drug test involved a trip to Labcorp or the local family practice. Today, home drug tests are cheap, fast and reliable, making them one of the most important tools in your parent toolkit. They aren’t just your most definitive means of detecting drug use, but they can also serve as a powerful deterrent against use. Still, while some parents eagerly welcome drug testing as a natural and prudent prevention/detection technique, others find some difficulty with the perceived “intrusiveness” of the issue. Though the decision does cross some boundaries with regard to privacy concerns, it does not have to be controversial one.
Today’s drug tests are no more intrusive than a small swap being applied to a drop a saliva or urine. And as for the philosophical side of the issue, a tragic number of loving and trusting parents can unfortunately testify to the life-saving information that “could have been revealed” by a simple five-minute home test. On a much brighter side, a great many more parents can testify to the peace of mind they have been rewarded with for having instituted a home testing routine. What’s more, children who are routinely tested by their parents, often report an increased level of trust and privilege in their home life. When parents feel more confident in their abilities to verify their child’s away-from-home habits, their relationship is oftentimes relieved of the stress and suspicion that would otherwise produce conflict at home.
It’s important to discuss these benefits with your spouse and child prior to instituting a drug testing routine. Involve them in the process and mitigate any lingering stereotypes about the procedure. Help them understand your concerns and recognize the ways in which this method will benefit them, and you alike. With up to 60% of high school seniors admitting to alcohol use, and 30% admitting to marijuana use, the cause for concern is well substantiated. Moreover, most schools have some form drug testing policy, as do most employers; making the practice very commonplace in the real word.
Types of Tests: If you’ve ever done a home pregnancy test, you have all the training and experience you need to perform a home drug test. They are available off the shelf at most pharmacies. A single test for alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or cocaine runs as little as $1 per use. Multi-panel tests, which screen a single urine sample for the presence of up to twelve separate drug types, can be purchased for as little as $16. All of these tests can be administered by a parent with no prior experience or training. They take less than five minutes to perform, and deliver their results almost immediately. The basic test only requires that a small sample of saliva or urine be swabbed by a tiny applicator. If you’re looking for more long-term results, there are now home tests that can evaluate a hair follicle for evidence of drug use that took place months or even years prior.Time Limitations: In order for a basic drug test to work, the drug must actually be present in the user’s saliva or urine. Because different drugs stay in the body for different periods of time, the effective time frame of each drug test varies. Marijuana is generally detectable in the urine for about 3 days after use. Cocaine, on the other hand, is only detectable for about 12 hours. Alcohol test strips are only considered “highly” reliable for about 3 hours after consumption.
Testing Techniques:There are three key elements to testing technique. The first is to administer the test within its effective time-span of use. An alcohol test strip, for example, should be administered as soon as the subject comes home. Even if that happens to be at 1 am. Waiting until the next morning will almost certainly produce a negative result.
The second key element is to establish parameters for your “random” drug screening. Some parents are surprised to find that most teen drug use doesn’t happen late at night, but during the day. Lunch time, or immediately after school, are “high” times for many teen drug users. So 6 pm on Thursday night is typically a good time for a “random” test. Weekend use is high too, making Sunday afternoon another good time. The trick is to position your tests as close as possible to the unsupervised discretionary time.
The third element is be mindful of the potential countermeasures. You can, in fact, cleanse your body of many drug types if you know that a drug test is imminent. Furthermore, there are plenty of ways to adulterate the test readings. The internet is full of information on this. Drug tests are accurate and reliable, providing that they are not tampered with or deliberately defeated. If you care enough to do the test, care enough to monitor the process. As the saying goes, “Surprise and Supervise.”
Just Keep In Mind: A single drug test is not enough to rule out drug use. Random testing should be carried out at least twice a month during the high risk years. Some professionals recommend more. Alcohol testing should be a matter of routine, done anytime a teen comes in from a night amongst friends. This pattern not only increases the probability of detection, but substantiates a strong deterrent.
Clandestine Testing: If for some reason, you cannot gain your child’s compliance, or if circumstances make a secret drug test necessary, you have several options. There are drug wipes, which you can use to swab a keyboard, cellphone, wallet or bookbag. These are single use, single substance tests, but they are made for many different types of drugs.
But these tests don’t stop you from doing it the old fashioned way. A parent contributor to this website once wrote in about how she brought her son to the doctor for a “cholesterol” check. An earlier phone call to the doctor spelled out that the sample was to be screened for drugs. Another crafty, and courageous, parent wrote about how he turned off the water to his son’s toilet and flushed it dry. After using the bathroom, the boy told his dad that the toilette wouldn’t flush. Before turning the water back on, dad tested the urine.