Straight Talk Advice

Nov 24, 2010

Should parents drug test their teens?

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: Lauren, I am curious if you had ever tackled the subject of home drug testing. A lot of parents can’t imagine their teens are using drugs, but the sad fact is, many use right under their noses. Some teens use marijuana while others raid the medicine cabinets for a high (sometimes at Gramma and Grampa’s house). Some parents look away preferring not to know, others believe it’s a complete invasion of privacy to drug test their teen. I wonder what the young people who contribute to your column think. — Jeffrey Soto, TeenSaver Diagnostics, Irvine, Calif.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

Before parents force their teen into a drug test they need evidence of drug use. Have medicines been found on low reserve or missing? Is the teen’s behavior different? Does he/she keep more secrets than usual? Are there physical symptoms (drowsiness, bloodshot eyes, decaying teeth, etc.)? Who is the teen hanging out with? Have they switched friends? With cause, testing by parents is not an invasion of privacy.

Maureen 18, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

Drug testing is overbearing if there’s no sign of drug use. But if you have suspicions or have caught someone, it is a great way to help keep him or her on track. It’s very important, though, to address the reason a kid is using drugs. You can’t drug test forever and at 18, you lose your power. A rehab counselor can get to the bottom of the problem so your kid will stay on track for himself.

Gregg 19, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

I got addicted to marijuana at 15 and it had a very negative effect on me. The high altered my personality making me socially awkward, physically tired, mentally slow, and very unhappy. My friends shunned me, my grades dropped. I started hanging out with “drug friends” who were only there because of pot. My parents helped me recover by putting me in outpatient rehab. My friends helped by not wanting to hang out with me when I was high (which really made a statement).

As part of rehab, my parents tested me regularly and randomly. I liked it. It made me feel honest because I could prove I was clean when my word was debatable. It also provided an excuse from using drugs when they were offered. When friends asked how long I’d been clean I knew the actual date — and being tested, they believed me more. Also, my parents began trusting me again. Testing clean ensured them the rehab counseling was working and they congratulated me each time I passed (I definitely fell off the wagon at first). Honestly, I loved being tested by my parents and was thankful to start college clean. I’m back to how I used to be, feeling great each day.

DEAR JEFFREY: The feedback here is pretty standard among young people and I agree that for cause, drug testing is a good idea. Many parents project the negative mood toward drug testing that was prevalent in their youth, but most Millennial Generation kids don’t think that way. Drugs are the “invasion of privacy,” not parents. Drug use starts younger today and the drugs are stronger. Kids get lost much easier and sincerely want and need help getting back to how they used to be. If parents don’t help, who will?

Parents: Most drug test kits and breathalyzers aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it. (Beware of borrowed urine — search the internet for “cheating a drug test” to detect other tricks.) I also can’t recommend outpatient rehab enough to heal the source of the addictive tendency — even for “just alcohol” or “just pot.” Rehab isn’t stigmatized by today’s youth. I found it surprising, too, but many kids really like rehab and the freedom from addiction they receive can stick with them for life.

Editor’s Note: It’s amazing, but I’d say 90 percent of today’s teens support drug testing if there is cause. Nobody wants to lose their freedom to drugs and kids today tend to love their parents. It’s a new generation with new kids and new parents — most parents just don’t realize it. They’re stuck in their own generational attitudes and don’t see that kids today want help with drugs.

I sound like a broken record, but drugs are more serious today than in the “heyday” of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Pot is 10-25 percent stronger today, there are countless more pharmaceuticals in everyone’s bathrooms, and meth, both unbelievably addictive and destructive, was on nobody’s radar. It was like kindergarten back then — plus the average kid was over 17 when they started using drugs, versus the average age of 14 today. The brain is significantly more developed in just these three years.

I urge all parents to review the video tapes and books by Jon Daily. I really like his model of healing the “relationship to intoxication” that is the core of the addictive tendency. If you need to seek out an outpatient rehab clinic (or inpatient for more severe cases), his materials will give you a sense of what to look for and what questions to ask. His website is —Lauren

  1. By S.T., age , from Sacramento, CA on 11/24/2010

    I agree with Katelyn and Maureen that parents should only drug test their kids if there is evidence of drug use.  Otherwise it is a totally overbearing invasion of privacy.  Our cousin, our mom’s sister’s daughter, got into serious trouble with drugs.  She’s failed twice after rehab and is a total mess.  Because of this, my sister and I have to suffer even though we have never used drugs, never intend to, and our mom has no reason to think we are.  However, our aunt didn’t have clue about our cousin until it was too late.  Therefore, our mom is totally paranoid that it’s going to happen to us.  She searches our room like were criminals.  Our room doesn’t have a lock and instead of knocking first like she used to, she just barges in on us without warning.  She says we shouldn’t care if we have nothing to hide and it doesn’t matter if we’re undressed since she’s our mom.  That’s not the issue.  Since she’s our mom we certainly don’t care if she comes in when we’re undressed or even naked; we just don’t like being barged in on without warning when she has no reason to think we’ve done anything wrong.

    All of this was bad enough, but our aunt told her about home drug tests that she’s using on our cousin.  She has good reason, but our mom doesn’t.  Our aunt told her that there are ways to cheat a urine test so that she has to watch our cousin provide the sample, so she’s doing the same to us.  We find this very humiliating and embarrassing.  She says there’s nothing to be embarrassed about since she’s our mom who changed our diapers and toilet trained us, but we weren’t teenagers then!  She says it’s no different than my sister and me sharing the bathroom in the morning which we do since we only have one bathroom and have to get ready at the same time.  It’s true that we share it even when we’re using the toilet if necessary and it’s not a problem for us as sisters.  However, we don’t stand there staring at each like she does when we have to do the urine sample in front of her.  It may be necessary in our cousin’s case, but we don’t think that we should be made to suffer for her sins!


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  2. By M.M., age , from Vacaville, CA on 11/24/2010

    I actually wish that my stepsister and I would be randomly drug tested, as I know that my test would be clean and hers would be dirty.  I live with my dad and stepmom because my mom lost custody due to abuse and neglect related to her own drug addiction.  Now I see it happening to my stepsister.  She gets drugs from her boyfriend and hids them in the room we have to share.  However, she says that it’s none of my business and I’ll be very sorry if I tell her mom, and I’m sure she would carry through on her threat.  As of now, there are no outward signs, so they have no idea that she’s doing drugs.  However, I’m sure it will come some day, but she’ll probably be in much deeper and harder to help.

    I could handle being tested if we both had to do it.  While it would be somewhat embarrassing, I could even handle my stepmom observing me provide the sample since we’re both females.  Unlike many stepdaughters, I actually like my stepmom who treats me better and cares more about me than my mom ever did.  She sometimes comes in our room when we’re undressed (but has the courtesy to knock first) and I’m comfortable with her seeing me nude, so having her see me provide the urine sample wouldn’t be going that much further as long as my stepsister had to do it in front of her too so that she couldn’t cheat. 

    While I have mixed feelings about whether all teenagers should be randomly tested, it would be very helpful in our case.  As I said, I could handle it and my stepsister would be caught and maybe get help before it’s too late and she could not blame me.


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  3. By Cathy, age , from Belleview, WA on 11/24/2010

    I’m actually in favor of drug testing for all teenagers.  Like airport screening which many are protesting, I see it as a necessary evil.  My sister and I are on the girls’ volleyball team and everybody on sports teams in our school district has to be drug tested.  I’m all for it as it keeps drug users off the team and keeps anybody from getting an unfair advantage.  The team members take communal showers together and give up our privacy and it doesn’t really bother any of us since we’re all girls.  To me, peeing in a cup in front of another female who is totally disinterested in what she’s seeing isn’t really that much different to me not a big deal to me or my sister or most of the team.  It’s never bothered my sister and me to share the bathroom when we’re using the toilet and shower and I’m sure the same is true for most sisters.  This isn’t really that much different.  It’s just a normal body function and nothing to be embarrassed about.


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  4. By Sarah, age , from Corona, CA on 11/24/2010

    I agree with S.T. and totally disagree with M.M. and Cathy.  I have never been drug tested and hope to God I never will be, as I would find this to be a gross, gross invasion of privacy, especially if it was random and I had done nothing to cause suspicion.  To have somebody watch me pee into a cup?  Just the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach.  I’m not overly modest.  I’m not shy about nudity in front of my sister or my friends.  My sister and I share a room and have no problem undressing in front of each other and seeing each other nude.  However, we pee and poop in private and never (and I mean never) share the bathroom at a time like that.  The thought of doing so has never even entered my mind, so I’m not sure that Cathy is correct that “most sisters” do this.  How does she know? Has she actually taken a survey?  If she and her sister are comfortable with it, it’s none of my business.  However, I don’t think she has any right to say that everybody should be forced to pee into a cup in front of somebody else when they’ve done nothing wrong!


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  5. By T.J., age , from Marysville, CA on 11/26/2010

    If you girls who think you have it bad because you have to provide a sample to your mom, it’s nothing compared to what it’s like for me.  I’m a guy and was caught smoking pot, so my mom decided that she needs to home drug test me.  Since our dad isn’t around to do it and she says she can’t trust me not to cheat, I have to do the sample in front of her!  I can’t describe how humiliating this is to have to do this in front of her at my age.  If my dad was around, I don’t think it would bother me that much to do it in front of him, but with my mom it’s a totally different ballgame.  She also uses the “I changed your diapers, etc.” line but that doesn’t take away the humiliation.  I realize that it’s my own fault to a large extent since I was using pot, but even so there must be a better way.  If a man made his daughter piss into a cup while he watched,  I’m sure that he’d be labeled a pervert and probably be arrested and put in jail, so why is it OK for a woman to do it to her son?


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  6. By Marie, age , from Roseville, CA on 11/26/2010

    Ever since I got out of rehab my mom has been home drug testing me and watching me do the sample or sometimes having my sister watch me.  You know what? I’m glad she’s doing observed tests.  First of all, being tested and knowing that I’ll get caught if I start using again is a very strong insentive to stay clean.  Secondly, by doing an observed test, my mom knows I’m not cheating.  I lost my mom’s trust due to my drug issues, and this goes a long way toward winning it back.  Like Cathy and her sister, it’s never bothered my sister and me to share the bathroom when we’re on the toilet, so it’s not a big deal to me to have my mom or my sister watch me do the sample, and as I said, I actually prefer being tested this way because it proves I’m not cheating. 

    I also agree with S.T. that it’s unfair to put someone through this when there is no reason to think they’re using drugs.  However, when you’re like me, I believe that testing is necessary and is actually a positive thing.


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  7. By Mark, age , from Santa Ana, CA on 11/26/2010

    For T.J.- You and your mom should know that there are drug testing labs where you can go and have an observed test done by a member of the same sex.  I have to be tested for the obvious reason, but our dad is not in the home and my mom would never humiliate me by making me do it in front of her.  Doing it at the testing lab in front of a male lab technician who does it all the time is not big deal.  I mean, it’s not that much different than using the urinals in the boy’s bathroom at school where there’s no privacy.  We don’t even have doors on the stalls when we have to sit down and do the #2 bathroom function, so I’m used to doing both bathroom functions in front of other males with no privacy anyway.  It’s probably more invasive for girls due to physical differences and the fact that they normally do it complete privacy, but even for them I don’t see why it should be a big problem to do it in front of their mom or another female.

    The testing lab is expensive, but my mom and I agree that it’s a necessary expense in our situation.  I’ll have to admit that it helps keep me clean.  She takes me for testing at totally random times, so since I know it can happen at any time, she doesn’t have to do it that often which keeps the expense down.  She’s smart enough to sometimes do it a short time between tests and sometimes wait a long time, so I never know.  While I resented it at first, I have to admit that it’s a good thing for those of us with demonstrated drug issues.  However, I agree that it is going to far to randomly require it of everybody.


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  8. By Herb Couch, age , from Nelson, B.C., Canada on 11/28/2010


    Making Sense of Student Drug Testing – Why Educators Are Saying No to Mandatory Testing without Cause:

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  9. By Jeff, age, from Irvine, CA on 11/29/2010

    This is great feeback.  Myteensavers cares about teens.  We’ve tried to help teens understand that testing isn’t an invasion of privacy, but a way of parents to protect their teens.  Believe it or not, many teens take prescriptions to get high, without really knowing what might happen.  It can result in an overdose.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at  Our goal is to bring parents and their children closer together, and not create a wedge.  It’s encouraging to see teens who support home drug testing.  The way we see it, it’s just as good for parents to show their kids that they are clean too.  It’s mutual respect.

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  10. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Fair Oaks on 11/29/2010

    Love all these comments that came in! I really appreciate hearing from those who are being helped off drugs because of testing. That you appreciate being tested and are being helped by it is what I hear again and again from teens in your situation.

    I want to reiterate my stance that drug testing should not be done without cause. I feel that no real good will come from that. People deserve privacy and freedom until they do something to lose it. However, for cause, drug testing and breathalyzing is highly beneficial and totally responsible. If it’s in tandem with rehab counseling, I’m even happier. 

    To M.M. from Vacaville: if someone goes beyond experimenting with drugs or alcohol, there are usually signs (lower grades, disinterest in school, disinterest in family, change of friends, dropping out of sports or other formerly-loved activities, truancy, fatigue, tooth decay, vomiting, lying, paraphernalia, depression, looking “wrong” in the eyes, etc.), and usually it doesn’t take too long for signs to show. However, if parents seem blind to them, tell them yourself (anonymously if need be), as well as the school counselor.—Lauren

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