This is the second post by guest blogger Lisa Chinn LMHC, CDP on adolescent substance use. She has written from her perspective as a mental health provider in adolescent chemical dependency. In this post, she’ll cover the topic of home urine toxicology screens.

To do UAs at home or Not to do UAs at home?

What is a UA? UA is short hand for urine analysis, urine toxicity screen or drug test. UAs are neutral evidence of whether a person has used substances or not. The drug test is not dependent on a person’s word or their behaviors. As a drug treatment provider, I recommend that UA or drug testing be done at home when a parent suspects or knows that your adolescent is using. Most teens who use drugs know that many substances will be gone from the body within a couple of days of using, therefore if the only drug testing they get are at their appointments, they may not get “caught” for a while.

Drug testing has two purposes: to catch a person when they are NOT using and to catch them when they ARE using. It is just as important to catch them when they are NOT using, as it is to catch them when they are using.

I often explain to parents that random drug testing at home can help their teen stop using, especially if your teen desires to stop and there are reasonable rewards or consequences depending on the result of the test. For a teen, knowing that they may get a drug test when they get home can give them an excuse with their friends, especially if they are feeling the urge and pressure to use. They can tell their friends, “No, I can’t use. My parents are going to UA me at home.” This gives them the “out” and the ability to keep their “cool” status. Its helps them “keep face.” Of course, it would be nice if your teen could just say they are choosing to stay clean, but often this is difficult to do, especially early in their sobriety. Any external support that can add to their success is worth it.

As a parent, make the next steps after the result of the UA clear. If it is negative (or they are clean) they may earn privileges back, like driving or getting off grounding. If it is positive or they are using, they cannot drive until they have so many clean UAs or they are grounded.

Random UAs at home can be completed at anytime. I recommend that there isn’t a pattern on when UAs are given. I also recommend at times to do some UAs back-to-back. I have randomly given UAs to my patients back-to-back, much to their surprise and chagrin. Most teens who abuse substances know that once they have had a UA completed, that very night they can use because the likelihood they will have another UA the next day is extremely low or none existent. They are willing to take the risk, believing they will not have a urine drug screen for at least a week. If you ask for another test then next day, they will truly not know when they will get another UA. Keeping it RANDOM is important.

Our next post in the series will tackle substance use and driving.