Every day, millions of teens use drugs. Parents hear stories of drug abuse and overdose and worry about whether or not their children are hiding something from them. No matter how well-behaved you think your child is, there is a growing possibility that he or she has or will experiment with drugs. Purchasing a drug screen kit from your local pharmacy can give you peace of mind.
Most drug screen kits test for drug metabolites, or substances produced during chemical breakdown in the body. These metabolites are found in the urine. The test strips are coated in chemicals that react with these substances, and usually show up as lines on the strip, much like a home pregnancy test. If the metabolites are present, the screen will indicate this by the presence or absence of a line. Check the instructions on the particular kit you purchase to see if there should or should not be a line.
When administering the screen, there is a certain protocol which should be followed. This will ensure the most accurate results. The protocol should be as follows:
Have the person empty all pockets.
This is to ensure there are no substances that can be placed into the collection cup that can affect the reliability of the drug screen.
Have the person wash his or her hands.
This will help make sure that no substances on the hands end up inside the collection cup.
Watch the specimen go into the cup.
This is one of the most uncomfortable parts of the process. Many teens feel self-conscious as it is, much less having a parent watching them go to the bathroom. However, if a teen is using drugs, the odds of he or she trying to hide the activity is probable. If you let them go into the bathroom themselves, the drug screen may be tampered with prior to receiving the urine specimen. The most common thing is for water to be placed into the screen to render the test strips useless. Once the strips have completely absorbed the water, urine is then put into the cup.
Give the screen adequate time.
Sometimes, the drug screen will initially seem to show a positive result. Make sure that you read the instructions to see how long you should wait for accurate results. Usually, the screen will have a maximum time you need to wait, such as five minutes. After this amount of time the strips may begin to alter, so make sure that you know exactly how to use the kit.
Check to make sure that the urine has proper quantities of creatinine.
Sometimes, drug screens will include a test strip that does this, but other times a separate strip must be purchased. Creatinine is a by-product of creatine phosphate, which enables muscle contraction. The body produces this by-product at an almost constant rate, and filters it through the kidneys. If creatinine levels are low, it can be an indicator that the person has consumed large quantities of water in an effort to internally dilute the urine. This will sometimes lower the ratio of drug metabolites in the urine to a point below the limits of the drug screen. If no creatinine test strips are available, another indicator of over-consumption of water, or “flushing”, is very pale-colored urine.
Follow up any screen with a lab result.
Usually, all drug screen kits have an address and shipping instructions to send a specimen for lab confirmation. This will ensure that the results that are shown on the drug screen strips are accurate. This is an important step because there are some things that can cause a positive on the screen. These include prescription and some over-the-counter medications. Usually, each kit will have a list of substances that can cause a positive result for each drug tested.
If parents do suspect their child may be abusing drugs and wish to drug screen them, note that certain drug metabolites stay in the body longer than others. Marijuana is the easiest to detect, as it stays stored in fat deposits and releases slowly. In the juvenile drug treatment court that I administer, participants are given 30 days after an initial positive marijuana drug screen to produce a negative screen. On the opposite end of the spectrum, most other drugs, such as prescription medication, cocaine, and ecstasy may only be detected for 1-5 days after use, depending on the quantity used.
No parent wants to face the possibility that their child has used drugs. The reality is that a vast majority of teens are faced with the decision every day. The most important step in ensuring they make the right decisions is to communicate and educate them on the dangers of drug abuse. Give them the tools to make an intelligent and informed decision and you may just save their lives.