Are there advantages to teen drug testing?
We all want to trust our children and the that they are acting in a safe and responsible manner. Unfortunately, we live in a world where adolescent and teenage substance abuse is a terrifying reality:
- Roughly 1 out of every 10 10th-graders has used an illicit drug other than marijuana within the past year.
- For 12th-graders, that number is more than 1 in 7.
- 29% of 10th graders and 35% of 12th-graders have consumed alcohol within the past month.
- For high school seniors, that percentage jumps to 58% if past-year use is considered.
- Over a third of 12th-graders have smoked marijuana within the past year.
- There are also significant rates of self-reported misuse of amphetamines, Adderall, Vicodin, benzodiazepines, non-heroin opioids, and synthetic drugs among teens.
If you are like most parents, you probably think, “I’d do ANYTHING to keep my teen off drugs!”
But would you make your child take a drug test?
The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy has stated in the past, “Testing can…be an effective way to prevent drug use. The expectation that they may be randomly tested is enough to make some students stop using drugs – or never start in the first place.”
Teen Drug Testing Helps Your Child Say “No!”
“…most kids will say, ‘My friends’ parents don’t test their kids. They TRUST their kids.’ The argument can be made that, ‘I trust you as well. I just don’t trust the world anymore. There’s too many things out there… There’s too many things that happen.”
~Tim Chapman, author of The Power of Parental Influence and the Art of Feeling, during a Answers for the Family radio interview
According to Columbia University studies, 80% high-schoolers – and 44% of middle-schoolers – report that they have witnessed illegal drug or alcohol activity. By the time students reach age 17, 70% will have been offered illegal drugs at some point.
It’s not a question of IF your child is going to be exposed to drugs. It is a question of how your child will RESPOND to such enormous peer pressure. It is your responsibility as their parent to make it easier for your child to resist.
Drug testing gives them a perfectly-plausible “out”.
When your child is offered drugs, they can respond with, “I can’t…my parents drug test me.” They can put all the “blame” on YOU, without being ridiculed by older or “cooler” kids.
Teen Drug Testing Lets You Learn the Truth
It’s a fact – teenagers lie about their substance use, and we, as their parents, want to believe them. Again, that would not be accepting reality.
In one study, 400 teenagers were asked if they used cocaine. Before they answered, they were assured of two things – their answers would be kept completely confidential, and they would be drug tested to verify their responses.
Even with prior knowledge of the drug test, hair samples proved that drug abuse was occurring 52 times more often than those teenagers admitted.
Doctor Mason Turner, M.D., who serves as Chief of Psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, says, “Most teens don’t think about what comes next. Concerns about the future don’t enter into their decision-making.”
Teen Drug Testing Gives You an Opportunity to Talk with Your Child
You can use the drug testing sessions as an excellent time to have a Frank and open discussion with your teenager about the dangers of alcohol and drug use. Briefly share real facts and information with them. You can talk about any stories in the news that show the consequences of substance abuse.
Teenagers have an inaccurate perception of the dangers of drug use. For example, less than 32% of high school seniors believe there is any risk to regular marijuana use, despite the fact that numerous studies have definitively determined that marijuana poses a particular risk to the still-developing teenage brain.
When they are among their friends who drink and use, you can be assured that they are hearing all about how “good” it feels to get drunk or high. Now is the time to counter those opinions with undeniable truth.
However, the conversation can’t be one-sided.
Ask questions, even if you are afraid of the answers. Give your teenager the opportunity to tell you what is going on in their life. Let them ask questions, and do your best to give honest answers.
Don’t worry if your child is resistant, unresponsive, or they act like they aren’t listening. They are.
According to Peter Delaney, who serves as the Director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, says that nationally-representative surveys demonstrate that teenagers who believe that their parents would “strongly disapprove” of them using alcohol or drugs were less likely to initiate use.
“Won’t Drug Testing Make My Teen Resent Me?”
But you have to ask yourself, are you trying to be their FRIEND or their PARENT?
As a parent, you are responsible for your child and everything that your child does. And meeting that responsibility means that sometimes you have to make decisions and set boundaries that your child thinks are unfair. Just make sure your child knows that you are taking this step out of love.
If – hopefully – the test is negative, then all you have to do is apologize for its necessity. But as Tim Chapman says, “I’d rather give an apology than be speaking to a mortician.”
Remember, you didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to drug test your teen for no reason whatsoever. There were signs, and you have suspicions, or else you would never have felt this step was necessary.
Trust your instincts.
Teen Drug Testing Lets You Get Help for Your Child
If the worst happens and the drug test is positive, indicating that your teenager has used drugs, your natural reaction will be to get angry. Try to resist that urge, because now is the time to get your teenager the professional help they need.
Since 1978, the professionals at Teensavers Treatment Centers have provided individualized, evidence-based treatment services for substance-abusing teenagers and their families. If you have need, contact Teensavers today for a confidential intake interview.
by Albert Fontenot