Nightmare or No Big Deal? A Mom’s Perspective on Drug Testing

“I think my kid is using drugs. Should we drug test?”

“Where do we get a drug test?”

“Are drug tests reliable?”

“My kid has to take a drug test and I’m worried it will show drug use.”

“What should I do if the test comes back positive for substance use?”

These are questions and comments I hear more frequently than I ever imagined. Quite frankly, I never anticipated being an information source on anything related to drugs or alcohol, let alone testing for substance use.

The funny thing is before people started asking me these questions, I – again, never expecting to be – was the person asking the same ones. Why? Because when my now 24-year-old son was in high school, we noticed attitude, behavior and mood changes. We were worried he was using drugs.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s to trust your gut.

Drug testing was one of the ways we were able to determine whether there was substance use, but it was not a quick and easy path. In fact, it was a nightmare especially early on in our son’s substance use, which included marijuana, heroin and other opiates, and a host of other drugs over a five-year period.

My husband asked our primary care physician if he would test our son because we were worried. The doctor brushed it off saying, “It’s tough being a kid these days. He seems like a good kid. Maybe some family counseling would help.”

Finally, after calling around trying to find out how we could get our son drug tested, we discovered these were available at our local drug store. There were quick tests to do at home and mail-in tests that went to a lab. The first time we tested our son, it revealed marijuana. No surprise to him or us, although his behavior seemed to indicate other types of drugs.

To us, drug testing conveyed two important messages: 1) We are concerned, and 2) We are serious.

Our concern was multifaceted – concern for why he was using, concern for the dangers of use, concern for the consequences of use. And our seriousness was steeped in acknowledging a problem, in encouraging him to go to treatment and in supporting him in recovery.

Admittedly, after a while, we gave up on the testing. He wasn’t particularly cooperative – imagine that! And, whether positive or negative, the results weren’t always helpful to the cause.

However, at one point he had applied for a job that was contingent on an extensive drug screen conducted at a professional testing facility. The night before, he went out with friends and I knew in my heart that even if he had abstained to use in the few weeks prior that this was going to be a night that would change all that. The next day, he went to the test. The next week, he didn’t get the job. While I don’t for a fact, my hunch is he didn’t pass the drug test, and that was turning point for me in realizing the extent of his addiction – using regardless of consequence.

During each of his treatment experiences, there was always some form of drug testing but because he didn’t want to stop using the testing didn’t really motivate him to recovery until a few years later.

For example, following a successful inpatient program, he was eager to make it on his own and was resistant to support in recovery. This led to a return to use that came on quickly and took him down hard. Honestly, I was preparing to write an obituary because death by overdose was a more-than-likely possibility, and I think he realized it, too. That was another turning point.

In 2014, my son decided it was time to stop using. He no longer wanted to live as he had been: homeless, jobless, penniless. His childhood friends were graduating from college and going on to graduate school or to grown-up careers. He was finally ready for treatment. He was finally ready for recovery. This time, he knew what he wanted and he knew what he needed.

He did his research. For him, this combination included out-patient; medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opiate use disorder – specifically Suboxone (buprenorphine) to eliminate discomfort from withdrawal, decrease cravings and inhibit the ability to get high allowing him to focus on sustainable recovery; mental health support; a health-realization focus, etc. Researching the options and creating a program gave him greater buy in.

As part of his MAT program, he willingly participates in random drug testing and to date, each and every one of these has been negative for substance use!

Today, a random drug test is no longer a nightmare. It’s simply, “No big deal.”

Shortly after he began the program, I asked him why this time was different. He told me it was the first time that he wanted to stop using. In the past, he knew he needed to stop but he just didn’t want to. This shift from need to want remains key to his success and it also offered me some incredible insight that share with other parents.

It doesn’t take parents long to figure out the three C’s of addiction. We didn’t cause it. We can’t control it. And, we can’t change it. However, we have incredible influence through our unconditional love and support, and during recovery it becomes the foundation for rebuilding trust and positive family dynamics.

As one who has “been there and done that,” I understand how frustrating and scary it is to see a loved one’s problem and live with the fact that they deny the problem or resist the help that’s available. I encourage families to get smart about substance use disorders, treatment and recovery; to find support groups – either in their community or online; to share their situation with others without judgement because many have been through addiction and will be eager to help in any way possible; and to set healthy boundaries. No matter how desperate things become, never stop believing that sobriety and recovery are possible – you are not alone and neither is your loved one – as evidenced by more than 23 million people in long-term recovery.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts           All Rights Reserved.

Advertisements

Valuable Evals

Short of discovering physical evidence of drugs/paraphernalia and alcohol or finding your kid* under the influence, it’s often hard to know for certain if your kid is using – or to know the extent of the situation. Perhaps this is the first time. You may consider it’s just experimentation or partying. Or you may be concerned that it’s out-right addiction. It’s not always easy to tell.

Regardless of what you’re feeling, remember that you are feeling something that’s concerning. That’s ALWAYS something to pay attention to. Why? Because we know that substance use will damage their developing brains, which don’t reach full maturation until age 22 for young women and age 25 for young men.

The fact that you’ve discovered substance use is reason to investigate further.

Keep in mind that “investigate further” does not mean jumping to conclusions or overreacting. It starts with observations, gathering facts, noting concerns, paying attention and keeping track of things – at least for a while.

This is an ideal time to reach out to other adults in your kid’s life to ask if they’ve observed anything of concern.

Ask teachers, coaches, activity leaders. Talk to friends and neighbors. Express concern and then just listen. But, still listen your gut.

It’s also a good time to talk to your kid. No accusations. No judgements. Just open the conversation. Listen instead of lecture. Share your perspective on substance use. Don’t expect the truth and don’t be naïve.

Again, listen to your gut.

If there is even a tiny inkling that there is substance use, now is the time to consider a professional evaluation.

There’s no one right or wrong way to go about this. The important thing is to do something. An evaluation now provides a baseline for the future.

I’m no expert, but there are three primary categories of evaluation. All of these proved valuable for our family in the early days of our son’s substance use. At the end of the blog, and on our website, find resources for the following:

  • Drug Testing. From the drugstore variety to clinical lab tests, these may be helpful in finding out if your kid is using and what they may be using. A word to the wise, however, don’t rely on these. For example, marijuana (THC) stays in the system for up to 30 days; but other drugs including stimulants and opioids may only stay in the system for hours. Random drug testing may express the strength of your concerns and the extent to which you believe drug-free is best for your kid.
  • Chemical Health Assessment. This entails having your kid meet with a licensed professional to complete a comprehensive interview. These pros know that your kid may not be telling the complete truth and this factors into their assessment. The outcome is usually a set of recommendations – everything from “keep an eye on things” to a recommendation for outpatient or in-patient treatment. Usually, this conversation begins to set up a correlation between use and consequences as well as stage of readiness for change. There may be a fee for this assessment or it may be covered by insurance. Many counties offer free or sliding fee options.
  • Mental Health Evaluation (Psych Eval, for short). This entails having your kid meet with a mental health professional. It can rule out psychosis and get a sense of whether there is anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, and other common co-occurring disorders that are prevalent among young adults and substance users. Again, there may be free assessments or insurance-covered options. For our family, this was one of the most telling assessments and ultimately it led to #SoberSon going into drug treatment.

Things to keep in mind:

  • An evaluation is just a starting point.
  • An evaluation is often a baseline and there may be need for future evaluations as your kid’s use continues.
  • An evaluation is not a diagnosis per se, rather offers a set of recommendations for developing a treatment plan which will likely include additional evaluations.
  • If your kid is under the age of 18, you can set up the appointment and insist that they participate.
  • Once your kid is 18 or older, your kid must agree to participate and the “results” are not available to you unless your kids authorizes a release of the findings. This can be a true challenge for concerned parents.

Resources for more information:

Our Young Addicts – links to resources:

https://ouryoungaddicts.com/links/

An overview of screening tools (SAMSHA)

http://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/screening-tools

Another overview of tools (NIDA)

https://www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed-medical-health-professionals/tool-resources-your-practice/screening-assessment-drug-testing-resources/chart-evidence-based-screening-tools-adults

Drug Testing Info: Burlington Labs

http://www.burlingtonlabs.com/

In Minnesota, two evaluations sources were particularly good for us. Google your community to find local sources.

Prairie Care

http://prairie-care.com/

Rule 25 – Chemical Assessment

http://www.resource-mn.org/chemical-mental-health/intake-assessment/rule-25/

*Our kids will always be kids no matter their age. However, in these blog posts when I use the word kid, I’m referring to young people ages 12 to 22.

©2017 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

 

Is Your Child or Loved One Using Drugs?

Print

Drug testing. Parents have a lot of questions about drug testing, so one of our twitter contacts offered up the following guest blog post. As a first step, many families wonder about drug tests you can purchase at a pharmacy or a reputable online source. More sophisticated and accurate testing can be done by labs that specialize in working with treatment programs. In addition, check out #AddictionChat from August 24, 2016, with expert Q&A with Burlington Labs. MWM

So… Are you once again sitting at the kitchen table and staring off into space wondering where your kid is and what drugs they are doing right now?  What’s it going to be like when they come home?  Are they even going to make it home?  The way things are today, there are many moms in this same position day in and day out just praying for a change.  Knowing for sure where you stand is one way to get this ball rolling in the right direction.  Drug testing your children or loved one at home or at a medical facility will make certain a number of things.

Drug Testing Solutions

You will now know within 99.7% accuracy what drugs, and in some tests the number of drugs in their system.  The conversation becomes difficult, especially as a parent, to talk about not only the use of drugs but having your child admit they are addicted.  An addict will minimize and lie to avoid the confrontation.  They will animatedly deny they are using or down play the use of heroin as just smoking pot. Many addicts are masters at manipulation, but being armed with the knowledge of the disease of addiction will assist you in holding your ground. No more enabling your child to continue using by being in denial or exhibiting co-dependent behaviors. It’s time to take action.

The easiest, most private, and fastest way to get to the bottom and have sound answers for once is an instant 12 panel drug test.  A panel refers to a drug class.  So that means there will be 12 drugs tested.  The tests come in several options, but the 12 panel will give you a broader determination of the drugs being abused.  Theses test kits can be bought at most pharmacies or even ordered online, but make sure it’s a reputable site. Online drug testing solutions offer both the standard urine test cup and the all new saliva test. The saliva test is a revolutionary oral swab that provides instant and accurate results. I recommend the saliva test because there is less chance of altering the results.

What a number of parents do, and what I recommend, is having the test on the same kitchen table you were sitting at one point feeling hopeless.  Then your child knows the gig is up.  Expect resistance and a song and dance but hold to you guns. This is the time to be proactive.  Make this happen.  Be level and straight up.  Tell them how you feel and do not falter.  Let them know no matter what you love them and it will be OK!

They may pull all types of tricks.  They will try and alter the test.  They may dip it in the toilet and use that water.  Catch them off guard so they are not prepared or expect the drug test.  Drug addicts are slick.  Don’t let anything get passed you.  They will be ready after the first time when they come home with clean pee in a bottle, or have dried bleach on their fingers to alter the tests.  Just remember the whole purpose is the knowledge.  The facts.  No more guessing, no more not trusting or disbelief.

Having a supply of cups at home at all times will work great as a deterrent.  If your loved one or child knows every day they come home and there is a test on the table… you mean business.  Continual drug use does not get better and life will only get progressively worse.  No matter how hard or how uncomfortable, a great first step to helping your child, who you think is abusing drugs, is to know for sure and that knowledge comes with a drug test.

About The Author

Dana Kippel is a case manager at Oceans Medical Centers (www.oceansmedicalcenters.com) a full spectrum mental health and substance abuse facility in always sunny Boynton Beach, Florida.  She has a passion for families and their struggle in addiction and wants to share her real world experience with others. Phone: (561) 376-8130 Email: info@oceansmedicalcenters.com

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.