• 08-18-2008: The Oklahoman

    Home drug testing kits are helping Oklahoma parents of addicts detect proof of abuse

    By Ken Raymond
    Staff Writer
    Pat Nichols doesn’t worry much about privacy. He’s focused on getting teenagers help. “When it comes to drugs or alcohol, I’m not concerned about whether the parent gets permission to search their room or take hair samples or anything," said Nichols, co-founder with his wife of Parents Helping Parents, a group for parents of addicts. “The important thing is to get the information necessary to get answers and move forward." Getting those answers may be a little easier now. Home drug-testing products are available in stores and online, including newer kits that don’t rely on body fluids and can detect evidence of prescription painkiller abuse. How one test works“Our hair test is a very popular product," said Zeynep Ilgaz, president of California-based Confirm Biosciences. “You don’t have to handle urine. It’s just basically a lock of hair. After the test is done, you can tell if the person is a recreational user or a high-end user." Ilgaz’s newest product, HairConfirm, costs about $90. Customers collect a hair sample and mail it back to the lab for testing. Drug history – including use of amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, PCP and marijuana – can be traced as far back as 90 days, and additional tests are done to identify use of prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin, Lortab and Dilaudid. Ilgaz recommends snipping hair from as close to the scalp as possible, providing a record of recent drug activity as well as longer- term abuse. But any hair can be tested, regardless of how it is obtained. That means parents secretly could take scalp or body hair from brushes, shower drains or bedding and submit it for testing. “It would’ve been able to keep tabs on me," said Katie Marino, 20, a recovering addict who started abusing drugs when she was about 13. “But I think it would just … make kids want to rebel and do drugs 10 times more than they used to, because they (parents) are pushing too hard." The American Academy of Pediatrics seems to agree. Last year, the academy reiterated its opposition to nonconsensual drug testing of adolescents, citing concerns that conducting secret tests could harm parent/child relationships by “creating an environment of resentment, distrust and suspicion." “Although drug testing of hair and saliva is available," the academy noted in a 2007 policy statement, “validity has not been firmly established. Questions remain regarding how passive exposure to drugs," such as attending a concert where others are smoking marijuana, “as well as differences among races and sexes can affect hair testing." Tammi Didlot is the owner of SelectForce Inc., an Oklahoma City employment screening company that also conducts drug testing. She works with Nichols‘ group, Parents Helping Parents. “We conduct hair testing here," she said. “There are some limitations with hair testing as far as how in-depth you can go." Inhalants, such as spray paint and glue, don’t show up. Neither does alcohol. Knowing that a child is using drugs is only a first step, anyway, she said. “You need a support element," she said. “Get counsel from a substance abuse professional, a parent coach, someone who’s been through this before. … You start closing doors with a child if you approach it in the wrong way." Still, Nichols said, testing – with or without abusers’ knowledge – can be the key to fighting an addiction. “We had one parent who took their … teenager to the local hair stylist," said Nichols, of Edmond. “The hair stylist was in on it. She cut the child’s hair and kept it without him knowing. They took it to an appropriate testing facility. They got the results and were able to take him to a therapist and get him help." 

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