12-08-2008: The Toronto Star
Parents clipping teens’ hair to submit for drug testing
The Toronto StarDecember 18, 2008
Parents who’ve spent years telling their kids, “Don’t run with scissors!” may soon be doing just that, thanks to the new HairConfirm kit.
It claims to offer a “cheat-proof” way to establish with 99.9 per cent accuracy whether your teen is taking drugs or sneaking your prescription painkillers.
By simply clipping and shipping off 70 to 80 strands of your child’s hair, cut as close to the roots as possible, San Diego-based Confirm BioSciences promises to deliver results – be they negative or positive – within a couple of business days.
“We’ve had husbands and wives testing each other. We’ve seen the kit used in custody battles to prove that one party is abusing drugs. We’ve even had people test themselves before they go to a drug test,” Zeynep Ilgaz, president and co-founder of Confirm BioSciences, said in a telephone interview from San Diego.
“But mostly it’s parents testing their kids” – with the exception of about 10 per cent “who just put (the box) on the kitchen counter as a warning sign,” said Ilgaz.
About a year ago the company started selling a “standard” home-test kit for $64.99 U.S. in stores and via the Internet. It can detect seven drugs – including marijuana, amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine – as well as how heavily they’ve been used in the last 90 days.
But it recently launched a new kit, largely at the urging of parents who suspect their kids are dipping into pills in the family medicine cabinet – mainly pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, said Ilgaz. Selling for $89.99 U.S., it tests for seven illicit drugs and five of the most popular pills among teens.
She touts the hair-test kit as superior to urine home-test kits, which have been fairly widely available for years. The urine tests make cheating easier and only detect drugs used in the previous three to five days, Ilgaz said. She likens them to pregnancy tests which simply give a negative or positive result, saying they don’t indicate the severity of the drug use.
While parents have lauded the hair tests as an important new weapon in the fight against drugs – one parent went so far as to salute the tests as a potential “lifesaver” – even Ilgaz doesn’t recommend giving your kids a bad haircut while they’re sleeping.
“Nothing can replace communication. Your kids have to agree to be part of this. You can’t do it behind their back,” said Ilgaz. “You want to do it as part of a whole drug prevention effort within the household.”
Dr. Claire Crooks agrees that talking is more important than testing, after having spent years working with kids and families struggling with drug addiction as a clinical psychologist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
“It’s kind of like reading your child’s diary or searching their room,” said Crooks. “Parental monitoring is really important – but that means having enough of a relationship with your child that you know who their friends are and what they’re involved in and where they’re going to be. This is closing the barn door after the horses are out.
“I certainly understand the desperation families can feel,” said Crooks, “but this doesn’t sound helpful in promoting a trusting and warm relationship.”———————————————————————————————-
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12-08-2008: The Toronto Star
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