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How to Use an At-Home Drug Test If You Believe Your Child Is Using Drugs

by | Last updated May 12, 2021 at 11:11AM | Published on Mar 22, 2021 | Finding Addiction Help For A Loved One

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At-home drug tests are popular options for parents who believe their children are using drugs. These tests can look at the presence of illegal or prescription medicines like Valium or Oxycodone. However, they do show if someone is using these drugs for non-medical purposes. Most parents use these tests when they’re worried about their children. However, it can also interfere with their relationship and cause more harm than good. What are your thoughts?

What Are At-Home Drug Tests?

In essence, at-home drug tests indicate if one or more drugs are present in urine. These tests are available at most local pharmacies. They can detect the presence of both illegal and prescription medications, such as:

These tests have a two-step process. First, someone uses the at-home test to determine if there are drugs present. Then, you send a sample to a laboratory for further testing that can be more accurate. 

How to Use Them?

While these tests are used in different scenarios, parents with teenagers or children who appear to be abusing drugs to use them are common for parents. These test kits include a sample collection cup, the drug test (which can be test strips, a test card, a test cassette, other urine testing methods), and its instruction booklet. 

Whoever is doing the test needs to read and understand the instructions before collecting the sample, as each test varies. Each test has its own way of reading the results, so it’s best to understand these before using the test. 

Collect the urine in the sample cup according to instructions. Then, follow the next steps, as some drug test kits ask you to send the sample to a laboratory. Some even include a shipping container and are pre-addressed to the lab. 

How Accurate Are These Tests?

Most at-home drug tests are pretty sensitive to the presence of drugs in the urine. If there are drugs present, odds are you’ll at least get a preliminary or presumptive positive test. However, as with many at-home tests, the accuracy can be affected by things like:

  • How the test was done
  • The way you stored the test or urine
  • What the person ate or drank before taking the test
  • Presence of OTC or prescription medications the person may have taken before the test

For example, some over-the-counter medications will produce the same result as illegally-abused amphetamines. So, it’s crucial not to alarm yourself after a positive test result. 

What Happens If the Results Are Positive?how to help an addict ebook

A positive result doesn’t mean someone is an addict; it also doesn’t mean that they’re taking drugs of abuse. Remember that many factors can cause a false-positive result. It also doesn’t mean someone is abusing drugs because the test only shows any drugs in general. It does not indicate acceptable levels compared to abusive levels for prescription drugs. 

Negative Results

At the same time, a negative result doesn’t mean someone hasn’t taken drugs. At-home drug tests are not 100% accurate because many factors can tilt the test to draw a negative result. For example, if you believe someone is abusing drugs, you might test for the wrong drugs and have a negative result. 

It’s essential to understand the drug clearance rate as they each take different times to leave the system. So, you may have tested the urine when it didn’t contain drugs. If you get a negative result but still suspect someone is abusing drugs, it’s best to speak with a specialist to determine your next steps. 

Frequently Asked Questions

A lot of people don’t know about at-home drug tests. Yet, these can be a great tool, especially for family members who suspect abuse. It’s also an idea to consider for those in early recovery, as it will hold them accountable for their actions and could potentially reduce the risk of relapse. 

How soon after someone takes drugs will they show in a drug test? How long will they continue to show?

Clearance rates, or how long it takes a drug to leave someone’s system, vary tremendously. Below are some guidelines that are meant to give you an overall estimate on when to use these tests. Keep in mind that these estimates may vary depending on how long someone has been taking the drug, the amount of medication they use, their metabolism, their age, and even their sex play a role. 

DrugHow soon after taking the drug will there be a positive test result?How long after taking the drug will there be a positive test result?

Marijuana

1-3 hours1-7 days

Cocaine

2-6 hours2-3 days

Heroin

2-6 hours1-3 days

Amphetamine/Methamphetamine

4-6 hours2-3 days

PCP

4-6 hours7-14 days

Ecstasy

2-7 hours2-4 days

Benzodiazepines

2-7 hours1-4 days

Barbiturates

2-4 hours1-3 days

Methadone

3-8 hours1-3 days

Antidepressants

8-12 hours2-7 days

Oxycodone

1-3 hours1-2 days

What type of tests are at-home drug tests?

At-home drug tests are what we know as qualitative tests. This helps determine if a particular drug is present in the urine, but it won’t show how much the substance is present. 

When should you use these tests?

If you believe someone is abusing prescription or illegal drugs, an at-home test can provide some insight. If you’ve seen signs of drug abuse and you think they’re using a specific substance, check for drug tests designed to test for that drug in particular. 

What are your alternatives to these tests?

At-home tests can also impact your relationship with your loved one, particularly with children. If you’re concerned that your child is using drugs or alcohol, take them to their primary care physician so they can do a professional assessment. They’ll be able to provide you and your child with intervention or treatment services available to help. 

We recommend that parents speak with an addiction specialist and a family therapist before confronting their children about drug abuse. Doing so helps parents understand the issue better and have the necessary tools to help their child seek treatment. 

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Jessica

Jessica

Jessica is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Clinical Director. She has a Master’s Level Certified Addiction Professional, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and has a Masters in Behavioral Science. Jessica’s education allows her to elaborate in-depth on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Narrative Therapy approaches to addiction treatment.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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