Should I drug test my teenager at home?

Do-it-yourself home drug tests are inexpensive and readily available over the counter. Should you drug test your teen? Here are a few things to consider while making your decision:

What are you going to do if she tests positive?

First, be aware that the tests are not 100% reliable. A positive result should be confirmed at your doctor's office.

Second, be aware that drug testing is not the same thing as treatment. A confirmed positive result will require a response from you.

Will you call a drug and alcohol abuse counselor?
Will you tell your teen to stop and let her know you will continue testing randomly?
Will you sit down with her and find out what is going on in her world, and why she is using?
Will you ground her until she turns 18?
Will you call the parents of her friends?
Will you rant and rave and threaten and then hope you scared her straight?

Obviously, some of these interventions are more effective than others!
The point, for the purpose of this article anyway, is Plan Ahead.

What are you going to do if he tests negative?

Will you offer a reward or an incentive?
Will you speak a quiet word of appreciation for your son's character and good decisions?
Will you scowl and wonder out loud how he cleaned up so fast?
Will you coldly remind him that he'll have to do this again sometime soon?
Will you thank him for his patience and understanding?

How are you going to bring it up?

The best time to do this is before you suspect she is involved with drugs. However, if it's too late for that, here's one possible way to broach the subject.

Honey, we know it's tough to be a teenager today, and that you face a lot of temptation. We wouldn't feel like we were doing a good job as parents if we didn't make use of every possible tool at our disposal to support you in making healthy choices.

We want you to know that we bought a home drug test today, and we'd like you to take it. We've decided it makes sense to randomly test you periodically until you are 18. We hope that you understand why we are doing this - we care about you very much, and your health and well being are very important to us.

Please take this into the bathroom, and when you come out, no matter what the results are, we want to hear what you think and feel about all of this.

Unless she's a civil rights buff who passionately advocates for teen privacy laws on the debate team, if your teen freaks out, she is giving you a big clue about the impending result, yes? Give the test anyway. It's very important that you follow through.

Please notice, this talk did not sound like this: I know you are using drugs and lying to me about it! Go take this test right now, and I'll have proof that I am right about you! What red-blooded kid could take this sitting down? You'll have a nasty power struggle on your hands. If you take responsibility for it yourself, rather than blaming or predicting or implying that her character is flawed, things usually go more smoothly.

Random drug testing can be a fantastic deterrent to peer pressure. "No way, my parents could test me anytime!" is a pretty strong reason to Just Say No that other kids easily understand. Start testing while they are in middle school to maximize this benefit, and keep it up all the way until high school graduation. It will just become a way of life for your teenager.

This article only scratches the surface of this emotionally charged topic. If you'd like some help figuring out the best way to handle this in your family, I'm available by phone for parenting consultations. For more information, visit

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