• 01-08-2008: Topeka Capital Journal


     

    Parents say home drug tests provide peace of mind- Teens say it’s an issue of privacy

    By Taylor Atkins
    The Capital-Journal
    Published
    Tuesday, January 08, 2008

     
    On the pillow, in the drain, from a brush – parents are finding peace of mind wherever their teenagers leave behind hair. A home drug test, called HairConfirm, that hit the shelves in June analyzes hair samples to determine drug use within the past three months. The company said thousands of kits have been sold and the main customers are parents who want to anonymously check on their teenagers.

    HairConfirm, a new home drug test, can detect drug use and usage frequency within 90 days. The company said the main customers are parents concerned about their teenagers.ClickIn a sampling of 1,162 HairConfirm test results from June through December:
    –  75 percent (869) came back negative for traces of drugs or their metabolites.
    – 21 percent (240) came back positive for traces of drugs or their metabolites.
    – Out of the positive tests, 14 percent tested positive for cocaine.
    – 3.6 percent tested positive for meth.
    – 2.5 percent tested positive for marijuana.
    – 1.3 percent tested positive for ecstasy.

    HairConfirm HOW IT WORKS
    – Parents purchase the home drug test kit, which includes instructions and prepaid envelope to send in samples.
    – Hair sample must include a “lock” of hair, or about 90 strands, to provide accurate results.
    – Parents send in the sample and then register a specimen ID number, passcode and e-mail address on the company’s Web site, hairconfirm.com.
    – When the results are available, they can be accessed using the information the parent registered.
    – Counseling options and service representatives are available to help with the results.

    HairConfirm“We take no personal information,” said Zeynep Ilgaz, chief executive officer of Confirm BioSciences, the maker of HairConfirm. “But based on our survey results and our customer phone calls, we know most of our customers are parents looking for answers. They want to know what their children are doing.”Those answers for parents cost just $69.95 through CVS pharmacies and Amazon.com.

    But Calee Atkinson, a junior at Seaman High School, said she thinks they shouldn’t cost anything at all.“I think parents should be able to talk to their kids,” the 16-year-old said. “I would feel betrayed by my parents if they did the test. If they cared enough, they would confront me first.”Ilgaz said her company recommends parents talk to their children before sending in hair to be tested, but she knows some parents feel they have no other option. They turn to discarded hair in brushes and in drains for samples.

    Tracy Bush, Atkinson’s mother, said she would do whatever it takes to get the hair for testing, even if her daughter felt it was an invasion of privacy.“It’s not a privacy thing,” Bush said. “Drugs can ruin their lives. You can determine if they need help.”Though multiple home drug tests are available on the market, HairConfirm is the first with lab technology that not only analyzes hair for traces of seven drugs (listed above), but also can determine usage frequency up to 90 days.

    With about 90 strands, lab results, posted online within 48 hours of receiving the hair sample, tell parents what drugs their teens have used and if they are low-, medium- or high-frequency users.“That makes a big difference to parents in knowing how to get help,” Ilgaz said. “It’s the difference between a parent saying, ‘My kid has experimented,’ and, ‘My kid is addicted.'”In a sampling of 1,162 test results from the last five months, Ilgaz said 21 percent came back positive for narcotics. The most common drug used, she said, was cocaine, with about 14 percent of the positive results.Marijuana, which is considered the most common illicit drug in the U.S., came in with just 2.5 percent of the positive results, though national surveys indicate much higher use among teens.

    According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s 2007 Monitoring the Future survey, 41.8 percent of high school seniors said they had used marijuana at some point in their life.Topeka Police Department Officer Ron Hollar, the school resource officer at Robinson Middle School, said a few parents have confronted him about testing their kids for marijuana or other drugs. He recommends products like HairConfirm and also opening the lines of communication.“Parents don’t want to be parents. They want to be the best friend. It can’t be that way,” he said. “They need to know who their kids are hanging out with. They need to know what their kids are doing when they go out.”Hollar said he doesn’t think most parents would tell their teenager before sending in hair to be tested. The talking comes afterward, he said, and should be with
    the parents, teens and professionals who can help.
    HairConfirm offers counseling options for people with lab results that come back positive. Hollar said Topeka police also can talk to teens without involving the legal ramifications or can suggest local counselors who can help.

    Taylor Medlin, a 14-year-old Topeka eighth grader, said getting help is the one reason she thinks parents can justify invading their teenager’s privacy.“I think it’s our own personal business what we’re doing, but I can see why they would be concerned,” she said. “If I was in danger of hurting myself, I would want them to know. I think I would want them to help me stop.”Taylor Atkins can be reached at (785) 295-1187 or taylor.atkins@cjonline.com.
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    Categories: HairConfirm In the News

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