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The Truth About Home Drug Testing for Teens

Adah Chung is a fact checker, writer, researcher, and occupational therapist.

Home drug-testing kits sold on the Internet may make it easy for parents to test their children for illegal substances, but that approach may not be the best idea. There are some possible drawbacks that parents need to consider before deciding to drug-test their kids.

Generally, there are two reasons that parents consider home drug testing: as a preventive measure or as an investigative tool.

Drug Testing as a Preventive Measure

If you are considering using home drug testing as a preventive step, you are probably working on the theory that if your children know they are going to be tested on a regular basis, they will be less likely to do drugs.

The problem with that theory is that it is not backed up by any scientific research showing that it works. In fact, one study conducted with 943 high school students showed that random drug testing of children at school had little effect on lowering the percentage of drug and alcohol users.  

Home Drug Tests Can Be Circumvented

Another problem with the prevention theory is the fact that there is no one drug test that you can give that will test for all of the possible drugs your children might be using. If you are testing for one set of drugs, they could switch to another kind of drug, while your test would show they were not using drugs at all.

Although many of these home tests use methods to test the validity of the sample, there is also the problem that there are ways to potentially cheat on drug tests. We won’t list them here for obvious reasons, but if your child is involved in illegal drug use or has access to the internet, he can find them. This may leave you with a false sense of security in thinking your child is not using.

Testing as an Investigative Tool

If you are considering using a home drug test for investigative purposes, chances are you have noticed a change in your child’s behavior or attitude, and you think it may be due to drug use. You want to use the test to find out if you are right.

The problem with using home drug tests to investigate your children’s possible drug use is that home testing alone does not really accomplish much by itself. Even those who advocate the use of drug tests for children at school and home warn that it is important to couple the testing with a complete assessment and treatment plan.

Testing Not a Stand-Alone Response

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug testing should never be done as a stand-alone response to a drug problem.   The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), which does not advocate home drug testing, agrees that adequate resources for assessment and treatment must be available if your children do fail a drug test.  

If a child fails a drug test, it should lead to early intervention and treatment, not merely punitive measures alone.

According to the AAP’s policy statement on drug-testing children and adolescents, there just might not be developmentally appropriate adolescent substance abuse and mental health treatment programs available in your community if your child is using.   In general, adult-focused programs may be inappropriate and ineffective for adolescents.

How Drug Testing May Damage Your Relationship

There is one other important drawback for parents considering home drug testing their children: the possibility of damaging your relationship with your child. Testing for drug use at home, with or without the consent of the adolescent, could seriously undermine the parent-child relationship.

Teens could perceive forced home drug testing by their parents to be invasive and a violation of their rights. You are not the police, and that really is not the role you want to be playing in your child’s life. It could damage your relationship and bond, leading to other behavioral problems.

What Steps Should You Take?

If you are concerned that your children may be using drugs or alcohol, take them to their primary care physician or other healthcare professionals for a professional assessment. If your child has become involved in substance abuse, the healthcare professional will know what resources are available to provide the child with intervention or treatment services.

If your child does require professional treatment or rehabilitation, be sure to find a facility or program that has experience in the treatment of adolescents, if possible. What works for adults may not work well for teens.

Home drug-testing kits sold on the internet may make it easy for parents to test their children for drugs, but that approach may not be the best.

Are At-Home Drug Tests Accurate?

Wednesday February 21, 2018

E ven though more Americans than ever have access to legal cannabis, many people still have to take a drug test as a stipulation for employment, and in some states, as a prerequisite to receive state assistance like food stamps and unemployment benefits.

At-home drug tests are easy to find in both drug stores and online. And they are affordable, too, costing anywhere from $5 to $30. But if failing a drug screening causes a loss of work and benefits, should you really rely on the results of a cheap test? Let’s take a closer look.

Cannabis and Body Fat: What’s the Deal?

Most people who must consent to a drug screening are concerned about testing positive for cannabis, and for good reason. Cannabis’ metabolite, THC-COOH, can remain in the body for a while, depending on several factors.

THC-COOH gets stored in body fat and how long it stays in the body depends on body fat percentage. THC metabolites dissolve in lipids and fats, so, the more fat you have, the more cannabis will accumulate, thereby extending elimination time.

For more information on how to flush marijuana out of your system, click here. To purchase products to help pass a drug test, click here.

How much metabolite remains in your system depends on how frequently cannabis has been used, what kind, and how much was ingested. Therefore, if someone who smokes one or two joints a day and has a higher percentage of body fat than someone who uses at the same rate but has less body fat, it will take a longer time for the person with a higher body fat percentage to eliminate THC-COOH from their body.

And, even if a person has a thin physique, they could still be “skinny fat,” meaning that their weight and BMI may be normal, but the ratio of fat to muscle is unhealthy. Even thin people aren’t off the hook.

Another thing to keep in mind is how THC metabolizes in the body. It metabolizes in the liver and is regulated by a different set of enzymes than those that regulate fat metabolism. So, if you have a speedy metabolism, nice work! Just remember that it won’t help to get rid of THC-COOH any quicker.

Types of Drug Tests

There are a few different ways to test for drugs: saliva/oral fluid tests, urine tests, blood tests, and hair.

Saliva/oral fluid tests have the shortest window of detection, or the amount of time a drug can be detected. Because it has a small window, these tests are not used very often.

Urine tests are so widely used that 90 percent of the 55 million drug tests administered in 2015 were urine tests. They are more accurate than saliva/oral test while still being affordable. Urine tests also have a longer window of detection.

Hair tests can detect a history of drug use and have the longest window of detection. For example, if cannabis was used for a period of time, abstained from, then restarted, a hair test would show that. But, they can sometimes be incorrect because of contaminants like dust.

Blood tests can measure the amount of drug in the system and also detect impairment as well. These tests are especially difficult to pass for heavy cannabis consumers because cannabis metabolites can be detected for longer periods of time than other testing methods.

Should I Try That At-Home Drug Test?

Maybe. These tests are generally pretty sensitive to the presence of drugs, so a positive result is definitely an indication that a lab test would show a positive, too. However, at-home drug tests are easy to mess up, and external factors can change the accuracy. Here are some things to keep in mind:

External Factors:

  • Was the collection done during the window of detection?
  • Are there any other medicines present in the body that may affect test outcome?
  • Is the sample free from contaminants?
  • Is the urine the right temperature (between 96-99 degrees Fahrenheit)

It’s also important not to get too excited if the test shows negative. Occasionally, a test can show a negative result because it has passed its expiration date, or the test detection chemicals are not working properly.

Ultimately, relying on an at-home drug test is probably not the most accurate plan if you need to pass a drug test with heavy implications on the line.

Still, it may be worth it to pick up several different ones to get a general feel for if you might pass or fail your upcoming test.

What if My Drug Test is Next Week?

If failing a drug test is not an option for you, then the first step is to try to reschedule the test for later. Barring that, there are some strategies.

Quick Tips:

  • Find out what kind of test will be used. Knowing which test can help hatch a plan
  • Stop using cannabis immediately, consuming more will only harm your chances of passing
  • Hit the gym. Lowering body fat will help free those cannabis metabolites. But be sure to back off the exercise routine about 24 hours before the test to slow down metabolite release
  • Watch those calories. Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand, and creating a daily calorie deficit can add up to a larger reduction of body fat
  • Drink lots of water. The goal with a urine test is to get a value of less than 50 ng/ml, so diluting urine with water may work. But, testing labs look out for diluted urine, so up your B Vitamins and Creatinine

Still failing that at-home test? Plan b!

Alternative Ways to Pass:

  • Fake urine is actually a thing. A powdered human urine kit comes with drug-free product, a 50 ml vial, a heater and temperature strip to ensure the proper temperature. This will only work, though, if you are unmonitored during the test
  • During the test, try to give the middle of your stream as the sample, not the beginning or end, since most metabolites are present in the beginning and end of the stream. And don’t give morning urine, which will have the highest presence of metabolites

Have a hair test coming up? Keep these ideas in mind!

Key Hair Test Info:

  • Shaving your entire body to avoid submitting a sample will definitely arouse suspicion, but sites like TestClear have a lot of options, including a shampoo, that may work
  • Remember, hair tests can be thrown off by contaminants. Figuring out a way to muddle the sample could be an option, but it’s no guarantee

The Future of Cannabis and Drug Tests

Until testing for cannabis as a condition of employment or other benefits is a thing of the past, a long-term plan for cannabis consumption and potential testing will help you avoid detection.

And as more and more states adopt progressive cannabis laws, it’s not uncanny to think we’ll begin seeing laws change around consumption on personal time.

Recently, Maine approved a law prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees for their cannabis use outside of work.

While employers in Maine still maintain the right to prohibit cannabis use and possession in the workplace and can still discipline employees for being high at work, this law marks the first time in United States history that protects off-site marijuana use outside of work.

Hopefully more states will catch on and start creating similar laws. Until then, keep the tips above in mind if you’re getting drug tested!

Have you tried an at-home drug test before? What was your experience like? Comment below!

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Many people who need to pass a drug test use at-home tests to see if they will pass or fail. But are at-home drug tests accurate? ]]>