Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Should My Teenager Be Drug-Tested?

If you suspect (or know) that your teenager is using drugs, then the short and rather obvious answer is "Yes!" But the details here are important: you need to be careful about who is doing the drug testing, what drugs are being tested for, what is done with the results, and how long the testing should go on for. A professional should guide you through all of this. I usually counsel against parents testing their own teenagers, because the parents are so easily fooled, and a positive result usually ends up with anger and recrimination, rather than the more clinical response of a therapist, who will help the teenager access treatment. (I am not saying that I or any other therapist cannot be fooled on a drug test, only that we are much more likely to do the test correctly, and find out what is really going on.) Also, it is important to test teenagers, even if they are actually telling you what drugs they are using. I am often confronted with a urine toxicology which is positive for cocaine or opioids, when the teenager professes to be "only" using marijuana. Oftentimes the teenager is in denial, or simply lying. But sometimes the teenager may be unaware of other substances being sprinkled on a joint.....
I usually agree with the teenager that I will give him or her the results of the weekly drug test, but not pass that information on to the parents. The teenager can then give the parents the drug test results or not, but not giving the results to one's parents of course sends the message that it was positive.  However, if a drug test (or anything else) tells me that the teenager is in immediate danger, I will call the parents. I would call the family of any patient whose life is in immediate danger!