• 07-26-2007: The Monitor

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    Deterrence or Violation? At-home drug tests advocated as prevention method.

    Miriam Ramirez
    July 26, 2007 – 8:53AM
    The Monitor

    Roger Hernandez knows he lives in a world of temptations.

    He doesn’t have to go very far – sometimes in his own Pharr neighborhood – to come into contact with drugs and the people who use them.

    The 16-year-old high school junior safely admits drugs have no place in his life and if his parents choose to drug test him – like so many are – it’s their right to do so. 

    “I wouldn’t feel violated because I have nothing to hide,” he said. “If my parents really need to know that I’m clean I give them that right.”

    Though his father Rogelio, has no plans on drug-testing his teenager anytime soon, if he had reason to, he would do so without reservation. Still, he’s confident his son is not interested in drugs.

    “If I ever catch him, everything would be taken from him,” said the elder Hernandez, an insurance salesman in McAllen. “No friends, no telephone. Just school and back. I tell him, if he does drugs his life is pretty much over.”

    Experts in the field, teenagers and parents argue if at-home drug testing is a violation of trust or an effective form of deterrence.

    The question remains, when should parents decide to administer these drug tests? After signs of drug use or at random?

    Some drugs can be detected in urine within two hours of use and remain detectable for several days or more depending on how much was used, how it was taken, the user’s age and weight, among other factors, according to the Federal Drug Administration. Other drugs have different timing for detection in urine. Marijuana is not detectable until six to 18 hours after use, the FDA states, but remains detectable for nearly a month.

    Kim Hildreth, founder of DrugTestYourTeen.com, encourages parents to go ahead, take the bold step of “crossing the line” with their children. Parents often use the phrase, “not my child” when it comes to suspicion, even traces of drug use, Hildreth said.

    “We live in oblivion until proven wrong,” she said. “It’s what we tend to believe. But there’s a line you have to cross in your brain to accept that you are going to have to deal with something bad. Do it before instead of after.”

    Point blank, parents are in denial, she added.

    Drug Test Your Teen offers several types of drug kits that can be purchased online. The average single test, which screens for marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates and benzodiazepines (roofies, valium and xanax), sells for $15 via the Web site. In just one step, dip into a cup of urine and wait five minutes for the results.

    “(Drug testing) is something you exchange for a good night and peace of mind,” Hildreth says. “While you have a little power, make their thinking a little more mature. Parents should know that it could happen to anybody. These are teenagers and their job is to test boundaries and see how far they can get. Ours, as parents, is to make sure they don’t reach that point.”

    By administering at-home drug tests, parents can fire a warning shot to see if there is anything going on, she said.

    “It’s not about catching them, it truly is best to deter them,” she added. “It’s a different world today. Wave that test in front of them when they’re leaving and their brain will engage when picking up their first beer.”

    Some tests can trace drug usage through hair samples, which offer a more “historical” look at an individual’s drug exposure over a period of months. Advantages include long term detection of drugs and ability to collect a similar specimen days after collection of the original specimen.

    HairConfirm, a San Diego-based company, recently launched this hair-follicle test kit that screens for cocaine, marijuana, meth/amphetamines, opiates and PCP. According to the company it is the first of its kind to provide accurate results and a detailed drug history report detecting drug use for up to 90 days. The test, which can be purchased at any local drug store, also can determine if the person is a low, medium or high user. Test results are available two business days after the lab receives the sample.

    “HairConfirm is an important tool for parents who want to prevent and combat drug addiction,” said Zeynap Ilgaz, CEO of Confirm BioSciences in a press release. “Talking with your teen about drugs and taking preventive measures like hair drug testing can be a significant factor in preventing substance abuse.”

    Locally, parents leave the drug testing to the professionals. Drug Screens on the Go, on West Wisconsin Road in Edinburg provides five panel tests, at $30, to test for all the most commonly used drugs, said owner Lina Gomez. Parents can also visit their local police department, laboratory or physician’s office for drug testing.

    “Some parents test their children just because they suspect they are using drugs,” she says. “We are visited frequently and do keep really busy.”

    Is this proof parents are coming to terms with the growing number of children using drugs, perhaps even experimenting?

    Stanton Peele, a psychotherapist on addiction and author of Addiction-Proof Your Child: A Realistic Approach to Preventing Drug, Alcohol and Other Dependencies says parents might be jumping the gun.

    He says drug-testing is a stop-gap measure because there is a more fundamental reason for addiction and too many things out there that can’t really be anticipated.

    Part of his work focuses on how to recognize when experimentation crosses over into a serious problem and how to provide help if needed. Rather than drug testing them, instill family behaviors that can protect kids from substance abuse and occasional usage.

    “We’re trying to cut corners and missing the fundamentals of parenting,” Peele said. “There has to be some segue of a child being self-managing. It’s pretty tough to scrutinize your kid constantly and kids do have a mechanism for monitoring themselves so the problems with testing are you really going to clamp down and scrutinize your children more and more. That’s such a hard battle to win.”

    Parents are aware children haven’t grown up, Peele says, but there should be a plan to mature and fully realize the effect of their surroundings.

    Teenagers who are unreliable, have bad grades or associate with people disconnected from positive activities are signs parents must take a proactive approach to correct, he said.

    “Raising a self-reliant child, that’s the solution,” Peele said. “Drug testing is not. Deal with problems when you perceive these other problems beginning.”

    Others believe parenting is an authoritative position, not that of a friend. Once there is evidence, there is no such thing as being overprotective.

    Lisa Boesky, a clinical psychologist and author of When to Worry: How to Tell if Your Teen Needs Help – and What to Do about It, says parents are waking up.

    “Most parents are unaware of the amount of experimentation and regular use of drugs,” she said. “The challenge is, there’s no way to know which kids will experiment and which kids will turn to abuse.”

    Boesky believes drug tests have their place and that some parents are panicking at the experimentation phase, causing a breakdown in the parent-child bond.

    “If a child is not giving any reason to give suspicion, you don’t want to go overboard,” Boesky said. “Parents can still monitor them without being intrusive. Keep in mind, it’s pretty normal for kids to experiment… this is a time when they’re trying to rebel and individuate against parents. What’s not normal is to use (drugs) on a regular basis.”


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