The possibility that their child may be using drugs is one of the scariest things to imagine for a parent. However, although drug addiction may occur at any age, oftentimes the habit begins to form during teenage years.
A parent should keep a close watch on their adolescent and decide whether to take them for a drug test at the hospital if they begin to observe disturbing signs like:
- Sudden withdrawal for no obvious reason.
- Frequent tiredness, drowsiness, depression.
- Loss of interest in favourite activities.
- Deteriorating relationships at home and unusual hostile behaviours.
- Change in social group that includes people suspected to be drug users.
- Unkempt outlook.
- Decrease in academic performance.
- Eating or sleeping disorder.
- Skipping or missing classes.
- Constantly getting into trouble in school.
Marijuana is an example of a drug commonly abused by teens which can be detected by drug screening. It can be spotted in any clinical analysis up to two or three weeks after it was last taken for anyone who uses the drug frequently.
But drug testing of teenagers doesn’t have to be negative and rancorous. It should be done with tact and reassurance by the parents that they love their child regardless the results and don’t want anything bad to happen to them.
What the doctor will test for
The doctor will normally ask the teenager (and sometimes the parent) a number of questions about drug and alcohol use and certain telling signs like association with people who use drugs. The doctor will then order a urine or blood test to identify the drug or drugs being abused and the extent of use.
The screening test will likely cover detection for substances such as cocaine, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, opioid, prescription drugs, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, and methamphetamines. I will also usually be available on the next clinical visit where it is determined whether a treatment program is necessary.
What if the teen refuses to go for a test?
A parent must be ready for first time refusals by their child. Most adolescents are only compelled to go for a drug test because of an express order by the court system or juvenile justice. But for parents whose teenage child still lives with them, a confrontational or accusatory approach isn’t always the right approach as it could escalate into violence or boomerang in other ways.
If you’re worried that your insistence of your teenage child to go for a drug test may result in a conflict, talk to your doctor. Young people are more likely to listen to professionals than family members as they feel that strangers are more understanding, gentle and empathetic.
A parent can also adopt a reward/punishment incentive, like taking away a privilege the child enjoys and giving it back if the drug test is negative.
What Next After the Result?
If the child passes the drug test, it is an opportunity for parents to reinforce positive behaviours and encourage the child to continue with activities and associations that discourage drug use.
However, if the drug test confirms a parent’s worst fears and comes out positive, they will need to decide if they need help. If the child is already in treatment, the parent should talk with the mental-healthcare provider or a doctor for other tests to make sure the child is not trying out other drugs different from the initial substances they are being monitored for. This is also the time to review their social groups and get to know their closest friends or where they often visit outside the home. If necessary, solicit the help of a friend or neighbour to keep a tab on the child or get the child engaged in positive activity to take up any free time.