Should Parents Drug-test Their Teens?
For me and most addiction professionals (and many mental health professionals), the answer is unequivocally yes. The information gleaned from testing individuals of all ages for drug abuse is essential.
In many workplaces, adults can be tested for drug use. But most drug use begins with experimentation and recreational use during the teen years; from there it can graduate into habituation, abuse, and dependence, that is, addiction. Each day, thousands of people enter addiction treatment programs and many of them are teens (most with compounding emotional problems).
Obviously, prevention–before any substance use begins–is important. But, since drug use is a part of our culture (not a good part) and it isn’t all that hard for teens to get a hold of drugs, sometimes prevention isn’t a realistic option.
That’s where parents come in. Ideally parents should create a supportive family/home culture where pre-teens and teens are comfortable talking with them about their lives. But society is complicated and today many parents face many issues that previous generations really didn’t have to face. Many simply don’t know their kids are doing drugs (or drinking) until there is already a problem. (Some parents are also abusing drugs or alcohol and can’t themselves model healthy behaviors).
Parents should be educated on the signs of drug and alcohol abuse, and there are many parenting resources available. They should know that once they think they might have identified a problem, confrontation (especially when done incorrectly), doesn’t always work—teens might be embarrassed or too scared to tell their parents what they’ve been up to or they simply don’t want to stop abusing substances and prefer to rebel against their parents.
Therefore, home drug testing for children and teens, has become more and more popular. In fact, I see parents and their pre-teen and teenage children who’ve been abusing substances, in the course of my work and many times the parents have found out because of home drug tests.
Steve Stahovich, the president of Teensaver Diagnositics, a creator of home drug tests for use by parents, is our guest at Therapy Soup.
Welcome, Steve. Would you tell us a little bit about why you originally became interested in home testing teens for drug use?
Unfortunately I battled drug abuse in my teens. Like many other kids, I started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana at a young age. That’s when I fell into the “trap.” I started hanging out with older kids that were part of the wrong crowd. Their use went much broader than alcohol and marijuana. Eventually my drug usage broadened too, ultimately becoming a daily habit. I repeatedly denied my drug use to my concerned family, blowing off my changed behavior as growing pains. Thankfully, I was able to get help. Not only did I embrace sobriety, but I began helping others with treatment.
I ran a sober-living program in California for several years and also helped open the rapid detox recovery facility for opiate addiction at the Waismann Institute. There, I specialized in the treatment side of detox and provided the former users with tools and education to help them kick their opiate addiction.
I began to see a common pattern with the adolescents and young adults that I treated. I realized that the earlier children got help, the more successful the treatment rate. Most parents shared with me that they wish they could have recognized the signs earlier, or a way to test their children.
I assisted in developing a drug testing kit for businesses that has helped corporations test more than 3,000,000 employees (or prospective employees). As a parent myself, my goal was to develop a home drug test that helped families.
How does The Teensavers Home Drug Test Kit work?
I know that parents generally feel uncomfortable about testing their teens so as we developed the product we tried to be sensitive to their needs. We designed a simpler testing procedure. Individual test strips allow parents to clearly read the results for each specific narcotic. There’s a privacy tear screen that allows parents to be the first people to see the results. Free lab confirmation of positive results is included so parents can have scientific confirmation. We also have a special hotline with trained counselors to answer parents’ questions.
How have parents responded to your products? How have teens responded?
While some parents approach home drug testing with skepticism, we’ve received overwhelming support from the parents we talked to. We also met and spoken with many teens—their main concern seems to be with how their parents approach testing—the manner in which it’s done. Naturally, teens don’t want to feel singled out or interrogated. I am proud to say that The Teensavers Home Drug Test Kit was recently named a Spring 2011 Winner by the “Parent Tested Parent Approved” group.
What are the ethical issues involved in parents testing their children?
Asking your child to take a home drug test may be uncomfortable, but there’s nothing unethical about it. We believe parents are exercising good ethics, morals, and family values by making sure their children are drug-free. Parents are reinforcing that they care about their child’s development and transition to adulthood.
I agree with you—making sure your children aren’t doing drugs is a good parenting decision! Though parents are uncomfortable testing their children they need to know that in addition the dangers to their children, there are other reasons to make sure their children are drug-free.
For example, parents are liable for the actions of their minor children. I hear from parents all the time who don’t fully understand that they are responsible for damages and injuries caused by their children, including children high on drugs or alcohol. Also, if parents know their children have a problem and do nothing to correct it, they can be held accountable for endangering their children and allowing them to possess and use illegal drugs (or for underage drinking).
Parents also need to know that they are allowed by law to test their children.
Right. Legally, there are no issues involved with the Teensavers Home Drug Test Kits.
Have addiction treatment professionals been supportive?
Yes. Many of them agree that early detection and treatment can keep a child out of treatment facilities for the rest of their life. Substance abuse is a potentially life-threatening problem so prevention and early detection are extremely important.
I recommend that parents use home drug testing products not only to initially detect drug use if suspected but to also random test teens whenever they spot physical, behavioral, or emotional indicators of drug use. Steve’s personal experience as someone who has overcome addiction has motivated him to create this product but it would be far better if teens were motivated to succeed by other means.
Hey teens, don’t even think you’re going to convince me this isn’t a good idea—people who care about you and love you like your parents need to know you are safe.
Steve Stahovich, the president of TeenSaver Diagnostics Inc., shares the message of sobriety with people every day. To Steve, sobriety isn’t a program or a product; it’s a new way of life. Steve knows about the pitfalls of drug abuse. He has helped thousands of people find a new life in sobriety since overcoming his own addictions. Steve is a CATS (Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist) and CAADE (California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators, worldwide Interventionist.
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2011). Should Parents Drug-test Their Teens?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 20, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/therapy-soup/2011/06/should-parents-drug-test-their-teens/