If your teen suddenly becomes moody, hangs out with a different group of friends, or struggles at school , you might assume that drugs are to blame for all of this. While doing a home drug test may seem like a simple and straightforward way to get an answer, it is probably not the best way.
Drug tests are not always reliable, and your child may be offended by being tested. Other methods may be better. Through confidential interviews and questionnaires, the pediatrician can help determine if your child has a drug problem without resorting to laboratory tests. If a laboratory test is necessary, your doctor will help you with the process to ensure that the test is required, processed, and interpreted correctly. Click here for Drug testing products.
Our point of view
If your teen takes a drug test, it should be done knowingly. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) opposes drug testing without the adolescent’s knowledge and consent. Parents can impose consequential punishments such as suspending their driving privileges or not letting them leave the house if they refuse to take a recommended drug test. Check with your pediatrician if you think your teen should be tested for drug use.
The Limitations of the Urine Drug Test
A chemical urine test – or urinalysis – is the most common drug test. But the test has its limitations, and parents should be aware of the following issues:
The test may not detect all illicit drugs. Most routine urine tests do not detect LSD , ketamine , ecstasy , inhalants, or the use of anabolic steroids . They also cannot in some cases detect alcohol , which is the substance that adolescents are most likely to consume.
Some test results can result in false negatives. Other drugs are detectable only for a short time after they are used. Most drugs – outside of marijuana – can be flushed out of the user’s system in as little as 12 hours. Within 2 to 3 days, these drugs can almost never be detected.
Test results can be false positives. Urine tests that detect drug use can be misleading and must be confirmed with more specific tests. For example, the results of routine urine tests can show the days of marijuana use — or even the weeks after your child has stopped using the drug. Some drug tests can mistake traces of legal pain relievers containing ibuprofen or naproxen for signs of marijuana use.
Sinus or allergy medications may show up as amphetamines on drug tests. Other commonly used medications may appear as tranquilizers.
Your pediatrician can help you
Your pediatrician may be able to identify drug use by interviewing your teenager. Even if you want to participate, let the doctor talk to your teen alone and in strict confidence. Don’t worry that your doctor will keep you in the dark about a serious problem. Your pediatrician will let you know if your teen is in immediate danger.
If drug testing is necessary …
You and the pediatrician must work together to ensure that reliable laboratory results are obtained.
Make sure your adolescent’s sample is carefully collected and handled by an experienced and certified laboratory.
Protect yourself against human error or false positives.
Make sure the results are properly and confidentially recorded.
Remember that a lab test is just one method of measuring drug use. Your pediatrician will also consider your adolescent’s behavior as part of the entire evaluation process.