Should You Drug Test Your Teenager?
Even though mind-altering drugs are especially dangerous for a young person, experimenting as a teen is increasingly more common. Before your mid to late 20’s the prefrontal cortex part of your brain is still developing. Due to that, it’s directly linked to your decision-making skills and you are more likely to take greater risks and have a harder time seeing the connection between your actions and future consequences. Just to name a few, a young person runs the risk of impacting their prospects as a result of a criminal record, harming themselves or others physically, and developing a lifelong addiction. None of these potential consequences to drug use should be taken lightly, though a teenager might.
Most parents worry about their teenager’s involvement with drugs and will go to great lengths to keep them sober. With easy access to at home drug tests, this might seem like a reasonable way to determine what your child’s relationship with drugs is and maybe deter them in the future. However, experts say this might not be an effective way to keep kids away from drugs and can have great consequences.
Choosing to drug test your teenager is a tough decision and all you can do is consider everything before you decide. It’s hard to say if this will be the best thing for yourself and your family since every case is different. However, you can weigh some of the pros and cons and ask yourself some important questions.
Is it warranted?
Drug testing your child is usually considered a last resort. If you have proof that your child has lied to you before or you know for a fact they are experimenting with drugs, you might feel like you have no other way to get down to the truth. Once you know for certain that they have access and a community influencing them to take drugs, the urgency to keep them sober will feel higher. Also, there is a small chance that regular testing will deter them from taking drugs the next time they’re facing a choice.
Are you prepared for your relationship to suffer?
There is a great breach of trust and an invasion of privacy that comes with being drug tested. Also is likely your relationship as parent and child will become damaged and your teenager could go to greater lengths to lie to you in the long run. When you’re somewhere in between child and adult, you are just learning how to be independent and not building a system of trust with the adults around you can be stunting. Especially if you choose to administer a drug test before any trust has been broken, to begin with, it could create horrible precedence where your child feels they must hide things from you.
Are they even reliable?
There are reasons an at-home drug test could give you false negatives or positives. Certain antibiotics or other drugs like ADHD medicine can cause a test to come up positive. It’s even more likely to get a false negative. Some drugs will run through your teenager’s system before you can catch it with a drug test. Or, they might illicit urine samples from others or even fake urine online. They could dilute the sample or worst of all, begin taking different drugs to bypass the test. How diligently do you plan on being when it comes to drug testing your teenager? Will you be testing them daily? Will you be watching them make sure they don’t tamper with the results? Will any of that make a difference?
It can be incredibly frustrating and you might feel helpless. If a test does come back positive you might not even know what to do then. Past studies found that administering drug tests to highschoolers had little effect on lowering the number of teenagers that were using drugs and alcohol within the school. Experts say the best way for a parent to prevent drug abuse is to create good communication in their household. Communication will help you see changes in their lives and they will feel more open sharing with you when they need help.
Stay involved and know who their friends are. Teaching your children boundaries, self-control, and a strong sense of self is important too. If you do choose to drug test your child or if you suspect they are abusing drugs, it is best to seek out professional help as early as the signs occur.