The answer is yes: You can drug test your own child. It may seem invasive, and it may cause a rift within the household, but we can’t just deny that kids–even ours–lie about substance abuse when it’s present in their lives. Discovering an addiction early on allows for quick intervention, which will spare you and your family lots of heartache down the road by avoiding the ills and problems that come with extended active addiction.
Do I Need a Reason?
Of course you should have some probable cause. It doesn’t have to be anything grand, like skipping school or getting in trouble with the law. A parent’s hunch is a powerful thing and, when ignored, we often wish we had trusted it. If the adolescent has a history of drug use, explain to him or her that this is an exercise in caution, not a lack of trust. You love them and you’re doing what it takes to be absolutely sure that they’re staying safe. It’s your right as a parent to keep careful watch on your child’s behavior, especially when you suspect it to be destructive or dangerous. You don’t want to overtly display a lack of trust or faith in your young adult, but you want them to know that there are dangers out there and consequences for one’s actions.
What if my child refuses to be tested?
If your teenager refuses to provide a sample, don’t try to force them with threats of punishment. You have your answer already. None of those punishments are going to help solve the problem; only treatment can. While refusal is not an absolute admission of guilt, it’s a clear indicator that there is something fishy going on. It’s true that kids can fool these tests by diluting their urine and other tricks, so it’s important to maintain the element of surprise. When there’s no time to prepare, it’s difficult to tamper with the results.
But what if I’m worried about specific drugs?
There’s also the (legitimate) concern of which drugs the adolescent is using; not all are equally dangerous, and most test kits are made to detect the five biggies: marijuana, amphetamines, opiates, barbiturates, alcohol.
For this reason, many parents drug test their teens even if they have already admitted to drinking, smoking pot–something less threatening than the truth. You’ll want to be sure that more dangerous addictions aren’t looming on the horizon before you settle into the task of dealing with the substance abuse in question.
Rest assured, if this happens, you can put the test away and move on. If your child is afraid to take a drug test, you can bet that he or she requires treatment of some kind, and that further medical and therapeutic intervention will reveal exactly which drugs have become a problem, and why.
It’s positive–now what?
A positive drug screening can shock the whole family, even the parent who took it upon themselves to go out and buy it. For the teen, it can be embarrassing and shameful, which can further erode any existing mental health issues at work beneath the substance abuse. Try to stay collected and resist the urge to yell or condemn; sit everyone down around a table and discuss options for moving forward. The goal of detecting substance abuse is not to criminalize and punish, but to address the very real presence of a severe physical condition that requires assessment, detox, treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery. If you explode and burn bridges now, the recovery and subsequent healing can be more difficult.
Sustain Recovery Services specializes in substance abuse treatment and addiction recovery services for adolescents and young adults who are looking for a way out of an endless, destructive cycle. We’re here for parents and families too, offering counseling and aftercare services to make the healing process as smooth as possible. Call us today for a free consultation.