SmackDown: Should Parents Drug Test Their Kids?

Filed under: Opinions, Teen Culture, Social & Emotional Growth: Teens

drug tests kids

Is drug testing your kids a deterrent or a sign that you're not paying attention as a parent? Illustration by Dori Hartley


Drug Testing Kids in the Comfort of Home is So Not Comforting


by Dori Hartley

How do you know if your children are on drugs?

Look in their eyes. The eyes tell all.

Before purchasing that home drug test, understand that making your child submit to a test not only raises a red flag telling him you don't trust him, it's also humiliating for both of you.

Peeing into a cup is no picnic, but handing over your steaming hot specimen to Mom is downright icky.

Drug use shows itself in its user. And the only way you'd be justified to test your own kid is if you truly are blind to whom your child is. You either know your kid or you don't. And, if something is "different" about your child, chances are, you're going to perceive it.

Home drug testing is just another excuse for parents to become further removed from their children. If your kid is using, you'll know it way before the testing stage is necessary.

You don't need a test, you need a conversation.

Marijuana smoke, like cigarette smoke, is smelly. If you suspect your child is smoking, put your nose in his clothing and hair. There's no hiding the inescapable stench.

Pills affect speech. Amphetamines cause users to speak rapidly, often times with a dry mouth. Painkillers, which cause grogginess, can make people slur their words. Listen to your kid's speech.

And one thing no drug users get away with is what they reveal in their eyes: pin-pointed pupils, black hole dilation or just good old fashioned, stoned-out redness hidden behind sunglasses.

Ask your kid to take those shades off and take a look to see what's in front of you. A drug user will lie, but the drugs themselves are incapable of deceit. No amount of Visine can effectively hide "the look" one gets after indulging in any drug.

I know "the look." I grew up during the 1970s, a time in history when drugs were everywhere. On weekends, my wannabe-hippie, New York City parents would bring me to the peace and love mecca of all drug-abusing hubs -- Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.

We saw and smelled the clouds of marijuana smoke that hovered above the crowds, as bongos and congas pounded out eternally long versions of "Oye Como Va" and "Witchy Woman."

People smoked their hash pipes out in the open, unafraid of being busted. In their inebriated trances, they would dance naked, and, on occasion, someone would mount a statue and tell the world (in slow motion) how beautiful we all were, courtesy of the delusion given them by a widely used hallucinogen called LSD.

We watched Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin die from alcohol and heroin abuse. We saw the hippies at the fountain and we saw the stoners at school. We knew what it looked like, and it was all there, easily seen in the eyes.

The lesson? Pay attention to your children. Look for subtle changes. Communicate and ask them about their lives, their world. Get to know your kid, if you haven't already.

The question of whether or not we should perform home drug tests is really only the beginning of a series of questions that need to be asked. Because, if the results come back positive for drugs, the real question becomes: What are you going to do about it?

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


Teens Will Be too Scared to Try Drugs If They Know You're Testing Them


by Jessica Samakow

From a young age, kids are conditioned to fear the dreaded time-out punishment.

"Share your markers or else you'll be put in time-out," they're told.

So, it's no secret that kids who then share their markers are doing so in order to avoid a time-out, not because they feel a moral obligation to lend the purple to their friend.

And, so, it makes sense that when it comes to testing teens for drugs, a similar precedent should prove to be just as effective.

Yes, it's true: When someone is high, the signs often are visible. The blood-shot eyes, the mad dash for munchies -- you've seen it all before.

However, relying on your own intuition to catch your kids in the act isn't as fool-proof as you'd like to think.

Face it: Your teen thinks you're naive. She knows your plate is full with a three-page to-do list. And she's not afraid to try sneak past you, burning red eyes and all.

And, if she does manage to hide her highness successfully, she's golden -- confident enough to try it again and again.

If teens want to do drugs, the small chance of being caught is not enough to stop them. But, if they knew you were going to drug test them on Friday, you better believe they'd think twice before lighting up that joint.

Being a teen not so long ago myself, I know the fear of getting caught is one of the biggest deterrences for kids who are hesitant to try drugs.

My friends who watched their older siblings receive a minor slap on the wrist for coming home high were the first ones to experiment themselves.

Other friends whose parents threatened to pull them off their athletic teams, or dole out other harsh punishments, were not so quick to get high, however.

If teens know they will be tested, and, therefore, definitely will be caught if they are guilty of doing drugs, they will be too scared to test the waters in the first place.

Plus, when their friends are pressuring them to give drugs a go, they can say "I can't, my parents test me," as an excuse.

They may be teased for having lame parents, but they won't be teased for being "lame" themselves.

I'm not saying every teen should face a weekly drug test -- for many it's unnecessary. But, if you do suspect that your teens may be involved in drugs, testing them is a sure way to find out -- and to stop them from doing it again.

Of course, you want your teens to make smart decisions on their own and choose not to experiment with drugs because of the morals you've instilled in them -- not because they're afraid they'll get caught.

But, when it comes to drugs, "learning the hard way" is not the best policy.

In this case, the "hard way" potentially can be deadly.

If you fear your teen is involved with drugs, stop her from using now, by means of drug testing, if necessary.

Let the morals come later.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.