Can I drug test my child or teen?
Yes, you can drug test your own child. Much like drug testing employees, testing a kid or teen helps keep the home environment safe. And intervention for teenage drug use can save lots of heartache down the road. Simply put, if your teen is still living at home, you have the right to drug test them. However, drug testing is not a simple thing in the home and drug testing without someone knowing IS NOT RECOMMENDED. More here on how to prepare to drug test your kid(s), set up a drug testing calendar at home, and avoid cheating. Plus, a section at the end for your questions about drug testing.
Why do you want to drug test your teen?
If you’re going to drug test at home, you must first have a good reason or probable cause for drug testing. Additionally, you must be able to explain rationally to your teenager why they are being subjected to a drug test at home. If your teenager already has a known drug problem, then this becomes a whole lot easier because your reason is likely related to recovery. Wanting to make sure your teen has stopped drugs and is staying off them is logical and the basis for having a drug-free home. This scenario makes perfect sense.
However, if your teen doesn’t have a known drug problem and you merely suspect that they might be doing drugs, it gets a bit more complicated. The fact that you’ve even gotten to the drug testing phase exhibits a lack of trust on your part. Adolescence is a time in lifewhen building trust is key to self-esteem and nothing smashes confidence like asking a kid to pee in a cup for your perusal. To a teenager who thought they were being a pretty good kid, this is may come as a slap in the face. And if they had no reason to rebel before, asking a teen to submit a drug test could potentially be the beginning of a deterioration in your relationship.
Still, you may have very just cause for considering drug testing. Maybe you have witnessed your child high or drunk. Perhaps you’ve found drugs in your teenager’s room. Or maybe your child has started hanging out with the wrong crowd. Whatever your reasons, communicate them explicitly and tread carefully.
Whatever you do, do not try to physically force your child to give a sample. Do not hold them down and cut their hair or shove a testing swab in their mouth if they are unwilling to do it themselves. You may not get your test done without their cooperation, but you will open a whole new, and much more dangerous can of worms if you try to physically force them to do the test. And I’m going to be honest with you here, if you’ve gotten to the point where you are seriously going to drug test your own child in their own home, I sincerely recommend that you find a good family therapist to work with because a family that lacks that much trust isn’t a functioning family at all.
“I’ve decided to test. How do I drug test?”
Once you’ve decided to start testing, you have two options: outsource it or do it yourself at home.
1. Drug collection center or laboratory drug testing
The good thing about going to a collection center/laboratory is that you don’t have to do any of the testing yourself. It is all handled for you by professionals. Also, taking the time to go to a collection center/laboratory makes the drug testing seem more serious, so your teen won’t just think it’s something frivolous. Finally, using a drug testing center can be more sensitive, as the tests themselves can detect drugs in lower quantities or at lower thresholds than at home testing kits.
The cons of outsourcing drug testing are that this type of testing costs more than home testing and the lab might hold your teenager’s name and drug testing information in its database and that means it could potentially be used against them if that information is requested by a court. Going to a collection centre also means making an appointment and making sure your teen is available then (which means they will know about the test ahead of time).
2. Home drug testing kits
Home testing is much less expensive than going to a collection center and is a viable option for most parents. Home testing kits are easy to use and some of them can give you instant results for up to 10 different drugs. One disadvantage of home testing kits are that these screens may not be as sensitive in detecting drugs of use. The main kinds of home drug tests follow.
Home urine drug testing kits – Urine based drug screens are the most common method of drug testing currently used in businesses and pre-employment screening. Depending on the drug, a urinalysis can detect traces of drugs in the system for about a few days up to a week or two after use. Typically, these tests will involve having a person fill a cup to a certain level and then dipping a tester into the urine and getting instant results. You can also just do the collection at home and have the sample sent away for lab analysis. Urine testing can be invasive, though and unless you actually watch your child pee into the cup (and if you’re even entertaining the thought of doing this, please seek therapy), they can cheat.
Swapping someone else’s urine sample for their own is one way teens can cheat a urine drug test. They might have the other sample in their pocket or hidden in the bathroom. This type of cheating is easy to detect, however, because a urine sample that isn’t fresh won’t be the same as their body temperature. Having a thermometer or thermometer strip handy should detect this type of cheating quite easily. Another cheating method they may try is to drink an excessive amount of water, which can give an inconclusive or false negative reading. Aside from the real danger of water intoxication, though, this type of attempted cheating is also a bad idea because many tests can now detect a sample that is too watered down. Also, many drugs aren’t water soluble, so this won’t help them anyway. Keep an eye on the color of the urine. Clear urine is an indication that they have over watered themselves.
Vitamin B3 seems to have garnered an undeserved reputation as a drug test beating substance. There is no scientific proof that this particular vitamin (or any other) has any effect on drug tests. However, there is ample evidence that it can harm a person’s body if taken in overabundance. Adding something to the sample like salt, vinegar, bleach or some other substance can render it useless. Many modern urine drug tests now have ways to detect an adulterated sample.
Home saliva testing kits – Testing your teen’s saliva is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to do an at home drug test. Typically, these tests will involve taking a swab of oral fluid from the mouth (which you can observe without the ick factor) And although cigarette smoking or gum chewing can alter these tests, they are otherwise reliable and the results are instant. Saliva based drug testing will detect drug use in a person’s system a few hours after use and up to two or three days after use, depending on the drug.
Because you can easily observe the collection process, this test is next to impossible to cheat. And if you are concerned about possible cheating, you can always send the results off to a lab to be analyzed. Saliva test are also convenient so you can test at any time, like when your child comes back from a party or in the morning when you have a suspicion. They are also very affordable and offer immediate results.
Home drug tests using hair testing – These tests are the most reliable and the most comprehensive. They are virtually impossible to cheat and hair samples are not usually affected by dyes, bleaches, shampoos or changes to diet. They can detect drug use up to 90 days prior to testing and you don’t need long head hair for testing. Short hair and body hair can be collected and used for a sample.
However, hair analysis for drug screening is more expensive than using urine or saliva smaples and you have to send the sample to a laboratory. This means that you don’t get instant results. It also takes about a week after ingestion for traces of drugs to show up in the hair. The results will tell you not only if a drug is used, though, but how often it is used and the results can go back as far as 90 days prior to testing. Collection is somewhat invasive, as you need to cut hair from your teen, but still not as invasive as urine collection.
Designing a testing regimen at home
Following these tips will help you set up a drug testing regimen in your home that is easy and cheat-proof.
1. Set up clear rules like checking pockets and making sure their hands are washed and clean before your start. Also communicate that you expect to be able to see them give their sample.
2. When starting out, go with saliva tests. They are the quickest, easiest, most convenient and least invasive to use. And they are difficult to cheat on.
3. Test at random so your teen doesn’t have time to prepare to cheat.
4. Use a test that has built in ways to detect adulteration attempts (mainly for urine testing).
5. If you feel like you might have been duped at some point or are not being taken seriously, do hair testing on occasion to keep them honest. Every two to three months should be good.
6. Stick with it! You’ve already gone pretty far down the rabbit hole by deciding to drug test your teen so don’t do it half-heartedly or stop after a few weeks or months just because you keep getting negative results (that’s what you want, remember).
Good luck with it.
Photo credit: USDA