You’ve seen all the signs: the grades of your child are slipping, they no longer participate in activities they previously adored, they are now reclusive and don’t want you into their closet and everything points to drug use. But should you go ahead and do a drug test to affirm your suspicions? Most importantly, will it even help?
Is Doing a Drug Test on a Minor legal?
The laws vary by state but there are a few commonalities that I will share here with you.
While a minor can consent to drug testing, it is usually not very enforceable unless it is consented by their parent or legal guardian. Parental consent should be included in all test forms as a distinct signature line.
Until 50 years ago, parents had the right to make most decisions for their minors. Today though, the Supreme Court has established that minors too have constitutional rights, including the right of privacy and confidentiality. However, if an adolescent poses a threat to others and self, privacy/confidentiality may be broken. A minor who has been involved in violence, overdose or trauma should be tested for drug abuse.
In clinical practice, a physician may encounter a parent who suspects the drug use of a teenager and requests for a urine drug test with/without their adolescent’s consent. In such a case, the clinician should get more information about the concerns of the parent.
The parent should be informed that a positive drug test does not offer information about the pattern of drug use, the presence of drug dependence, or drug abuse. Likewise, a negative drug test does not imply that the patient has not used drugs.
If a minor refuses testing for drugs, it is usually not appropriate to test, unless in emergency situations. Should a minor agree to get tested, the physician should first come up with a plan for disclosure of the results both to the parent and minor before ordering the test.
Is Drug Testing a Minor Worth It?
A lot of professionals and parents are divided on the issue of carrying out a drug test on their kids. Several organizations believe that it is the only way to eradicate the drug epidemic in the community. Actually, a number of community programs are trying to intervene on drug use by teens through offering free drug tests to parents who sense a drug problem in their kids. A positive test result may not lead to a legal consequence, but the minor may be referred to a counsellor and a treatment facility.
Unfortunately, drug tests backfire and lead to the opposite of the intended results. For example, a research project in 2013 by the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine that involved high and middle school students found out that testing for drugs led to a slightly lower use of marijuana, but a significant higher abuse of other illicit drugs.
Another 2012 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse concluded that drug testing should not be undertaken as a lone response to children’s drug problems.
If you suspect that your kid is abusing drugs though, it does not imply that you shouldn’t take a proactive approach. You can do the following to confront him effectively and encourage him to get help.
- Ask: Asking your child about drugs is an excellent way of opening the lines of communication. Conducting a drug test may pass a distrust message.
- Right timing: Avoid starting a conversation when angry or when you are not prepared with information to answer questions raised by your child. You also shouldn’t do it when your child is intoxicated or when you are angry.. Wait until everyone is clear-headed and relaxed.
- Be open minded about the outcome: Your child may react negatively to your conversation or even come back with personal attacks like calling you a hypocrite or a liar. Figure out in time how to respond to this.
- Get professional help: A formal intervention may be necessary for curbing your child’s drug use. Be sure to hire a trained professional like a qualified counsellor.