Study Leads Pediatricians to Discourage Home Drug Testing by Parents

Risks versus benefits of drug-testing policies for adolescents

From November 2000 to June 2003, Sharon Levy, MD, and colleagues at the Children's Hospital Corp. in Boston analyzed the features of home drug-testing kits for adolescents available through the Internet. They also examined recommendations that drug-testing companies offered parents to guide them in using these products.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) (for more information see Program Results).

Key Findings:

  • A variety of drug-testing products are marketed to parents over the Internet. These products feature tests using urine, hair, saliva and breath:
    • Eight Internet sites offered a total of 26 drug-testing products. Some products test for one drug and others test for as many as 10.
    • Seven of the eight websites sold urine tests.
    • One company marketed a service that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for testing hair for several drugs.
    • Three sites marketed instant saliva or breath screens for alcohol.
  • Websites included several indications for parents to perform drug tests:
    • Seven of the websites advocated drug testing as a preventive measure.
    • All of the websites indicated that drug testing would allow parents to know with certainty whether their children are using drugs.
  • Only one website clearly stated that a competent adolescent should not be tested against his or her will.

Key Results: As a result of this project:

  • The Committee on Substance Abuse of the American Association of Pediatrics amended its adolescent drug-testing policy to include a statement discouraging home drug testing by parents.