Whether or not it’s necessary or advisable to drug test your teen is a controversial issue. Some parents feel like it’s intrusive and sends the signal that they don’t trust their children. Other parents feel like it’s their responsibility to protect their children from serious mistakes that could have long-term repercussions, even if that means being slightly authoritarian. Both sides can make compelling arguments and with the increasing availability of home drug tests, drug testing your child is more convenient than ever. Should you do it? Maybe. Early drug use is one of the biggest predictors of developing a serious substance use issue later on. What’s more, regular substance use by teens has been linked to lower IQ and developmental delays. Substance use may also compromise teens’ already questionable judgment, leading to a greater risk of accidents, pregnancy, and other behaviors that may negatively affect the rest of their lives. This is all to say that while it may be common for teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol, such experimentation is not harmless. If you are aware that your teen has had issues with substance use in the past, especially if she has been to therapy or treatment for substance use, drug testing may be a good idea. A reliable drug test can be a way to measure whether she has stuck with her recovery plan, or whether new efforts are necessary. Absent such a history of misuse, drug testing may not be such a good idea. It’s understandable that parents should be worried about whether their kids have been using drugs or alcohol, but drug testing may have unintended consequences. In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP released a statement about drug testing your kids that read in part, “Drug testing poses substantial risks–in particular, the risk of harming the parent-child relationship by creating an environment of resentment, distrust, and suspicion.” The AAP also advises against drug testing in schools, citing lack of evidence that it’s effective. The question of trust in a family is no small issue. A supportive family environment is one of the strongest protective factors against substance use, as well as problems such as anxiety disorders and depression, which can lead to substance use. There are practical considerations as well. First, home drug tests are fairly sensitive, which means they are prone to false positives. The FDA recommends submitting positive tests to a lab for confirmation. Even if you’re able to reserve judgment until the lab results come back, having a positive drug test result hanging over your heads is not likely to help your relationship, and there’s a real possibility that an innocent teen will be living under a cloud of suspicion. Another practical consideration is that home tests detect common drugs of abuse but not synthetic drugs like spice or K2. If your teen knows she’ll be tested but wants to use drugs anyway, she might opt for more dangerous and unpredictable drugs.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our Copper Hills facility specializes in the treatment of adolescents. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.