Physical Problems

Drug Testing Kits

Drug Testing

Parents may want to include drug testing kits as part of a family’s drug use prevention efforts, though parents shouldn’t rely on home drug tests alone to detect or prevent drug use, and many doctors recommend against home testing. Parents should learn about drug testing kits to decide if they are right for their family and situation.

Home drug testing kits generally involve taking a sample from the person and either using a test stick that gives a quick response or sending the sample to a lab that will process the test and return an answer. These types of tests are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. The tests that are sent to labs are kept confidential and may be ready in just a few days. These types of tests are usually very reliable. When using the types of tests that give immediate results, any positive results should be confirmed by a doctor or a lab.

Home drug testing kits can be purchased online or sometimes in local stores. When buying drug testing kits online, make sure that you are purchasing from a reliable company, such as one recommended by your local doctor or law enforcement agency. Most multiple-drug tests cost around $10 each, depending on the number and types of drugs tested for, and they are often sold in sets.

The samples that may be used for drug testing can include:

  • Urine
  • Saliva
  • Sweat
  • Hair

The collection methods vary. Urine is usually collected in a cup and then a stick is dipped in the sample, similar to a home pregnancy test. A patch placed on the skin may be used to gather sweat. Swabs can be used to collect saliva to be sent to a lab. Hair samples are usually collected directly from the person and sent for analysis.

Most of these methods can only tell parents if teen have been using drugs in the past few hours or days. Hair can potentially tell about drug use for up to one or more months prior to the test. It is also less invasive. The use of hair is less well-studied, however, and things like the texture and color of hair, as well as chemicals like dyes that have been used on it, may be able to affect the test results.

Drug tests can screen for a number of drugs, including:

  • Marijuana
  • Opiates
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • PCP
  • Steroids
  • MDMA
  • GHB

Most drug tests only look for certain drugs, not for every drug a teen may be using. Alcohol is generally only detectable when the teen still has it in their system. There are some drugs that teens use that drug tests may not look for, such as some prescription drugs that teens abuse. This is one of the reasons that parents should not rely on drug tests alone to combat drug use in teens.

Another reason to be cautious about relying on drug testing kits is that some tests can be tricked. Most of the methods teens use to try to trick drug tests are not very effective, and some drug tests even detect substances that indicate that teens are trying to trick the tests. Still, parents should be aware that drug tests, though designed to be very reliable, are not foolproof. Also, tests may occasionally give a false positive. This is why positive tests should always be confirmed by a doctor or another source.

Parents may be tempted to drug test teens secretly, such as by taking a hair sample, but this is not usually recommended. Hair samples gathered secretly may be old, and may even belong to another person, such as if a friend used a teen’s hairbrush or someone at school was close enough to get a hair on their clothing. Also, testing in secret eliminates the potential of using drug testing to deter teens from trying drugs. It also may make it harder for parents to help teens if they find that they are using drugs, since the teens will lose trust in their parents and won’t be able to talk to them about their problem.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages involuntary or secret drug testing of young people because there is not enough evidence that home drug testing is useful in combating drug use. Drug testing is not always effective at detecting drugs, and may encourage teens to use drugs that less easily detected, including alcohol. Also, involuntary or secret drug testing may destroy family relationships and do other harm to teens.

If parents are concerned that their teens may be doing drugs but don’t want to use a home drug test, they can take their child to a doctor for drug testing. This also has the advantage of including medical advice and other types of drug and health screening along with the drug test.

If parents decide to use home drug testing, it should not be used to punish teens for drug use. Instead, it should be used to find teens who are using drugs and get them help. Random drug testing may be able to help to deter drug use, and may be able to catch teens who have a drug problem. Drug testing alone, however, is not an effective way to prevent teens from using drugs. The best things parents can do to help their teens are:

  • Talk to teens about why they shouldn’t use any types of drugs and express their love and concern for them
  • Monitor the teens’ behavior
  • Set clear rules against using drugs and enforce reasonable consequences if the rules are broken

Teens who have a drug use problem need counseling and perhaps medical intervention to help them deal with their problem and overcome any addictions that they have. Parents can find counselors or drug recovery programs through their doctor or local health department. Many programs are available for no or low cost to those who cannot pay for medical services.

Drug Testing Kit Sources:
Dr. D. Bruce Burlington, US Food and Drug Administration, News and Events, [Over-the-counter Test Kits for Drugs of Abuse” [online]
National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Testing in Schools” [online]
American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics Journal, Policy Statement, “Testing for Drugs of Abuse in Children and Adolescents: Addendum – Testing in Schools and Home” [online]

Troubled Teen Issues

Teen Gambling

Teen Gambling

Research from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Annenberg Public Policy Center seems to indicate a nearly 600% increase in gambling in post-secondary institutions between 2001 and 2005, with over 15% of students engaging in gambling each week in 2005. Although most of the gamblers are over 21, most first and many second year college students are still teens, and even if they are not active participants, this is part of the situation in which they are living. To understand more about teens and gambling, keep reading.

Understanding Teen Gambling

One of the problems with gambling is that it can start off with innocent competition, for example, two teens tossing a football or Frisbee and one says, “I bet I can throw it farther than you” or “I bet I can hit that tree over there,” or something of the sort. This might end with a throw and nothing more. Or it may turn into a situation in which money, property, services, and the teens’ futures are staked on the outcome of this single action.

In the situation proposed, there is nothing wrong with the action itself. Throwing a football or Frisbee is not illegal or immoral. And some gambling is based on such everyday actions. Other teen gambling can take on a different dimension because it is based on illegal actions.

The legalization of casino gambling and the draw of Internet gambling are two factors contributing to the increase. In addition, in many states, gambling is legal at age 18, and even if they are not allowed to participate in all forms of gambling, older teens can gamble without breaking the law.

Gambling has been glamorized and popularized with the World Series of Poker being televised (including reruns!), Poker is the type of gambling that has experienced the greatest increase in the twenty-first century. The popular Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, and Ocean’s Thirteen movies have also contributed to bringing gambling into the public eye.

Gambling online has introduced a new twist – instead of having to put up cash to gamble, one can gamble with credit chards. In addition, one doesn’t have to wait to find a group of people who are awake and willing-it is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Another issue may be the broadcast government-sponsored encouragements to gamble in state-run lotteries. Purchasing lottery tickets and betting on sports are the road in to a serious gambling problem for many.

Because gambling had not been a major problem, it has not been a part of regular health surveys, and the true extent of teen gambling may not yet be known. As it becomes apparent that gambling is an important issue-one estimate suggests that 80% of teens have gamble at least one time per year and in November of 2007, a survey in New York estimated that 10 percent of the state’s teens have a gambling problem-anti-gambling education is being considered, and campus policies regarding sanctioned “casino nights” and other school-sponsored gambling is under scrutiny.

Causes and Consequences of Teen Gambling

As a result of teen gambling, there are more teens with debt that they cannot hope to pay back, and a link to stealing and lying. Gambling is an addiction, and gamblers may spend more and more time on that activity, and less on schoolwork and relationships with family and friends.

Gambling is linked to other behaviors and factors such as poor academic performance, less well-educated parents, alcohol and drug abuse, binge drinking, and attending school in a state in which at least two kinds of gambling are legal. Because compulsive gamblers are risk takers gone awry and often among the brightest students-the one’s who can do the math to figure the odds-they are usually highly engaged with at least part of the world, and their behavior may not be as easy to spot as that of a seriously depressed and withdrawn teen.

Gambling Sources

National Criminal Justice Reference Service
Studying Teen Gambling – And Adding to It – The New York Times online
The U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention

Physical Problems Troubled Teen Issues

Underage Drinking

Even though drinking by anyone under the age of 21 is illegal in the U.S., people aged 12 to 20 years drank 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States this year. Of this amount more than 90% was consumed in the form of binge drinking. Binge drinking is typically defined as five or more drinks consumed on one occasion and is one way to determine heavy alcohol use. On average 28.3% of underage drinkers (10.8 million persons aged 12 to 20) used alcohol in the past month. Research has shown that underage youth drink more than those of a legal age (4.9 drinks vs. 2.8 drinks).

Legal Drinking Age

  • The legal drinking age for different countries varies dramatically, from 0 to 21
  • 10 countries have no minimum drinking age
  • 13 countries have a minimum drinking age of 16
  • 43 countries have a minimum drinking age of 18
  • 1 country has a minimum drinking age of 19
  • 2 have a minimum drinking age of 20
  • The U.S. has the highest minimum drinking age at 21, but there are many exceptions to this general rule, that lead to underage drinking. 

Drinking and Driving

A yearly average of 4.2 million young people between the ages of 16 and 20 reported driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs during the past year.

Among high school students in the last 30 days:

  • 45% drank some amount of alcohol.
  • 26% binge drink.
  • 11% drove after drinking alcohol.
  • 29% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

Underage, teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to ride with an intoxicated driver and are more likely to drive after drinking alcohol or using drugs. The number of deaths in motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol, account for 38.6% of all traffic deaths. Reports show 6,002 young people ages 16-20 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2003.

Underage Drinking Deaths

Approximately 5,000 deaths of people under the age of 21 are the result of underage drinking each year:

  • 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes
  • 1,600 as a result of homicides
  • 300 from suicide
  • Hundreds more die from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings while they are intoxicated 

This is a big concern because reports show there were approximately 7.2 million people under the legal drinking age who were binge alcohol users in the last month.

Physical Problems

Teen Alcohol Use

Teen alcohol use, underage drinking, and teen alcoholism info from : SAMHSA National Household Survey on Drug Abuse Stats


Underage Drinking Stats for all youth, ages 12-17:

7.2 million adolescents drank at least once in the past year
2.7 million teens drank alcohol about once a month or more in the past year
1 million youths drank at least once a week or more in the past year
Girls were as likely as boys their age to drink alcohol
Hispanic youth were as likely as white non-Hispanic youth to be current drinkers
Black non-Hispanic youth were the least likely of the racial/ethnic groups to be current drinkers
66% thought drinking 4 or 5 alcoholic drinks nearly every day was a great risk
47% thought drinking 4 or 5 alcoholic drinks once or twice a week was a great risk

Teen Alcohol Use for all youth, ages 12-17:

13% had at least one serious problem related to underage drinking in the past year
6% had built up tolerance to the effects of alcohol
3% reported psychological problems related to their teen drinking
1% reported health problems related to their teen alcohol use

Youth, ages 12-17, who drank any alcohol in the past year:

39% had at least one serious problem related to drinking in the past year
18% had built up tolerance to the effects of alcohol
8% reported psychological problems related to their teen drinking
4% reported health problems related to their teen alcohol use

Youth, ages 12-17, who drank alcohol heavily (5 or more drinks on 5 or more occasions in the past month):

77% had at least one serious problem related to underage drinking in the past year
63% had built up tolerance to the effects of alcohol
20% reported psychological problems related to their teen drinking
12% reported health problems related to their teen drinking

Young adults, ages 18-20, who drank heavily (5 or more drinks on 5 or more occasions in the past month):

66% drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year
42% often drove or rode without wearing a seat belt

Young adults, ages 12-20, rates of teen alcohol use in 1998:

Among youth ages 12-20, the rates of teen alcohol use were highest among those 18-20, among whites, male and among those living in the North Central region of the United States. The lowest rates of teen alcohol use were among blacks, females, and youth living in large metropolitan areas.

The rates of current, binge, and heavy teen alcohol use did not change significantly between 1994-1998. Rates were 30.6%, 15.2%, and 6.9%, respectively, for current, binge, and heavy alcohol use.