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Drug Test for Teenager: Should You Give Your Child One?

Are you worried that your teenager might be experimenting with drugs? Or do they have addiction issues that they’re actively struggling with?

Research shows that teenage use of marijuana has increased 10-fold since the 1990s, and the use of other illegal drugs is also on the rise.

If you’re worried that your teen is using drugs, it’s easy to panic and demand that they take a home drug test right away.

However, using a drug test for teenage addiction concerns isn’t usually the best choice. It could seriously damage your relationship and stop your teen from opening up to you.

On top of that, many tests aren’t 100% effective and can be cheated by savvy kids.

Keep reading to find out exactly why drug testing your teenager isn’t a good idea—and get ideas on what to do instead.

There Are Many Ways to Cheat Drug Tests

Most teens know exactly how drug testing works, and if they’ve got something to hide, they’ll probably be willing to go to extreme lengths to hide it from you.

Products like the Whizzinator are designed specifically to cheat drug tests, even under supervision. Even kids who don’t own products like this could easily get creative, using ‘clean’ urine from friends or siblings and storing it in a bag inside their pants.

If you drug test on a specific day each week, your teen might simply stop using drugs the day before, rather than abstaining completely.

No matter how rigorous you think you’re being, there’s no guarantee that your teen won’t manage to cheat your drug test.

Home Drug Tests Can Give False Results

Drug tests are widely available at pharmacies, but don’t assume that they’re foolproof.

Many tests are extremely basic, meaning that they can easily give false positives or negatives. For example, consuming a poppy seed bagel could make a test show up positive for opiates.

Most home tests don’t test for pH or creatine in the urine, so they can be fooled by using water.

Finally, home drug tests won’t test for every single drug out there. If your teen is using a newly-developed research chemical, their test will show negative, even if they’ve been using drugs for weeks.

Since home tests have such a wide margin of error, there’s not much point in using them to try and get the truth.

Negative Results Don’t Guarantee Complete Abstinence

Even if you drug test your teenage and they get a genuine negative result, there’s no guarantee that they’re not using drugs at all.

For example, a teen could use drugs at a party, be tested a few weeks later, and come up negative. That night, they might go to another party and use drugs again.

The parent will be confident that their child isn’t getting high, when, in fact, the timing of the tests happens to have worked in their favor.

Realistically, there’s no easy way to stop your teenager from ever using drugs, so it’s much better to speak openly with them about the potential dangers.

Insisting on Drug Tests Will Harm Your Relationship 

How would you feel if your parents had such low trust in you that they forced you to take home drug tests?

You’d probably feel hurt, angry, and humiliated—and much less likely to open up to them again in the future.

Many professionals advise against drug testing for the simple reason that it destroys trust.

If your child is using drugs, there’s a good chance they’re dealing with some issues. These could be related to stress, mental health, peer pressure, or bullying.

If they’re not using drugs, then you will have damaged the relationship for no good reason.

This could even have the unintended effect of driving your teen to think, ‘I might as well use drugs if I’ll be accused of it anyway!’

Instead of drug testing your child, try to talk to them about what’s going on in their life. If they feel able to open up, you’ll be able to address the real issues and your relationship will be stronger as a result.

Don’t make your teen feel like they’re being punished for struggling.

You Should Focus on the Root Cause of Your Teen’s Behaviour

Think about what’s making you suspect that your teen is using drugs.

Are they falling behind at school? Behaving differently? Hanging out with a bad group of friends?

Instead of rushing straight to a drug test, try to work out why your teen is behaving the way they are.  Ask yourself if drugs are definitely the culprit, or if something else could be going on.

For example, a teenage girl acting moody and losing weight could look like drug use, but might actually be an eating disorder or physical health problem.

A straight-A student getting bad grades might make you assume too much partying, but, in reality, they could be struggling with bullying or stress.

Keep an open mind and avoid jumping to conclusions.

Make an effort to spend some quality time with your child and open up a discussion about what’s going on with them.

Many kids will be relieved to finally have someone to confide in, whether they’re using drugs or not.

Why Insisting on a Drug Test For Teenage Children Is a Bad Idea

It’s understandable to want a drug test for teenage children who are acting differently.

However, drug tests aren’t the miracle solution they appear to be.

Most home testing kids are easily fooled with fake urine, can show false results, and risk doing serious damage to your relationship with your child.

Skip the drug test and have an honest conversation with your teenager instead. Raise your concerns, and let them know that you’re there for them without judging or scolding.

This approach will be much more effective in the long term, no matter what’s going on with your child.

Want to learn more about teenagers and addiction? Visit the drugs and alcohol section of our blog to get informed.

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