How reliable are teen drug tests? - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

How reliable are home drug tests?

More than two million teens in the United States abuse prescription drugs, synthetic marijuana and bath salts annually according to a recent study conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

These drugs cause harmful side effects and, in some cases, they are deadly.

For some parents, trust is an issue.

Delano Santos constantly monitors what his 13 and 16-year-old daughters post on their social media sites. One day, Santos was alarmed by something he saw.

"There was a picture on Tumblr, several pictures of marijuana on one of the pages, and it just didn't add up," Santos said. "So, before we took it to the step of a drug test, I asked ‘What was the reason for having it on the site on your page?'"

He wasn't really given an answer other than -- "I just did it," Santos said.

Santos went to a pharmacy and purchased drug tests for both his daughters.

The test results were negative—meaning his girls were drug-free.

"We felt the results were good enough for us," Santos said.

Instead of administering a drug test on your own, a lot of parents call professional drug testers like Jeff Goddard who is a representative with a national company called Mobile Drug Testing.

"Everyone wants to trust their child," Goddard said. "It's one of those things where you trust they are going to make the right decision, but you also need to verify to keep everyone honest."

Goddard claims some of the tests Mobile Drug Testing provides can detect "K2" and "Spice", two of the more commonly abused synthetic drugs in which other tests currently on the market are unable to pick up.

"If you were to send them somewhere and have a regular drug test, they probably wouldn't pick them up which is why the new synthetic drug testing is very effective," Goddard said.

Paying a professional is one way for parents to outsmart a teen who plans to cheat on a drug test.

America Now asked Goddard to demonstrate how he would secure a bathroom in someone's home before administering a drug test to a teen.

With the precision of a detective, Goddard sealed the bathroom faucet with tape and he checked the toilet tank for hidden containers of clean (or drug-free) urine that could be swapped out.

Wastebaskets were removed as well as all cleaning products in which a teen might be tempted to use to adulterate their urine sample.

Minutes after a drug panel is submerged into the urine, you'll know the results.

How reliable are drug tests regardless of whether you administer it yourself or if you hire a professional?

Dr. Michael Beuhler is the director of the Carolinas Poison Center in Charlotte, N. C. He says these tests actually create more questions than answers.

"Drug tests are not infallible," Beuhler pointed out.

Drug screen tests simply can't keep pace with the constant flood of new, synthetic drugs and the results aren't always accurate.

"The inherent flaw is—a drug test is going to have false positives and false negatives and in the case of teenage drug abuse, the substance we are most concerned about that is killing the most number of teenagers is prescription drug abuse which will most likely not show up on the drug screen," Beuhler pointed out.

This inherent flaw is what can give parents a false sense of assurance.

"If a parent doesn't understand this, does a drug screen, and it is negative, they may actually close that avenue of further investigation, and they may falsely conclude that their child isn't abusing drugs when, in fact, they are and that's the problem with a drug test," he said.

"This piece of technology will not solve the problem," Beuhler added.

Instead of paying for a drug test, some experts recommend parents pay closer attention to signals of drug abuse -- like a fall in their child's grades, a change of friends, or like Delano Santos did -- an usual posting on a social media site.

As for Santos, he says he wouldn't hesitate giving his girls another drug test if necessary.

"We actually told them that at the end," he said. "If we feel we need to retest again, we'll do it at the drop of a dime. Just out of nowhere, we will ask you to do the test, no questions asked."

Experts say the most important thing a parent can do is to educate yourself about these drugs and their symptoms. If you start recognizing some of the signs, you can get your teen into a counseling center for help before it turns into a more serious problem.

If you decide to have your children tested and the initial results are negative or positive, you should still consider sending the sample to a certified lab so they can confirm the results.


Additional Information:

  • Synthetic marijuana is a plant material coated with dangerous chemicals which produce a marijuana-like high. Its sold as "Spice", "K-2", "Blaze", and "Red Dawn", just to name a few. Experts say some of these synthetic drugs are 100 percent more potent than marijuana.
  • "Bath salts" are sold under a variety of names like "Bliss", "Blue Silk", "Cloud Nine" and "Vanilla Sky."
  • No matter where you live in the United States, there is a poison center near you. Call 1-800-222-1222 to talk to medical experts for free, private poison help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Chemicals Used in "Spice" and "K2" Type Products Under Federal Control and Regulation for Additional 6 Months Source, DEA <http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/pressrel/pr022912.html>
  • Drug Fact Sheet: Bath Salts or Designer Cathinones (Synthetic Stimulants) <http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/abuse/drug_data_sheets/Bath_Salts.pdf>
  • Common street names for bath salts include: Bliss, Blue Silk, Cloud Nine, Drone, Energy-1, Ivory Wave, Lunar Wave, Meow Meow, Ocean Burst, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, Red Dove, Snow Leopard, Stardust, Vanilla Sky, White Dove, White Knight, White Lightening (Source: DEA)
  • Bath salts" are usually ingested by sniffing/snorting. They can also be taken orally, smoked, or put into a solution and injected into veins. (Source: DEA)
  • American Association of Poison Control Centers. "American Association of Poison Control Centers Joins Office of National Drug Control Policy Working Group in Addressing Dangers of Synthetic Drugs - http://www.aapcc.org/dnn/NewsandEvents/NewsMediaResources.aspx
  • While overall illegal drug use has declined or remained steady in recent years, the use and abuse of prescription and over the counter drugs has increased, especially in the teen and young adult population where prescription drugs are abused more than any other drug with the exception of marijuana. Of note, the number of teens abusing prescription and over the counter drugs is greater than the number abusing cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine combined (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2008). Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2008) suggest that more than 2 million teens abuse prescription drugs each year. Prescription drugs, in fact, are the drug of choice for 12 and 13 year olds. (Source: http://www.ncgccd.org/pdfs/pubs/drugdiversion.pdf
  • Forty percent of teens believe that it is safer to abuse prescription drugs versus illegal drugs while thirty percent report believing that prescription pain killers are not addictive (Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, 2006).

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