When do you start random drug tests?

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by Loving parent, Sep 17, 2014.

  1. Loving parent

    Loving parent New Member

    Hi All. I will try to keep this short. I have a depressed 16 year old who over the past six months is making a lot of poor choices. He is self-medicating with marijuana. It is hard to know how often but he has bragged to his friends this past week that going to high school high is fun. (I don't know where he is getting any money since he spends his tiny weekly allowance almost immediately and in front of me on posters or junk food. I have seen no evidence of dealing.) I have 3 burning questions:
    1. How much should I focus on determining whether he is an addict? If it is, then I start taking him to Narcotics Anonymous meetings as I guaranteed I would (and which he swears he won't go to). But it's so hard to tell if he still has a merely "recreational" relationship to it.
    2. I understand that random drug tests would help me catch him. But my partner feels it will erode his trust, set up a police state, and make my son rebel more, thus ending the sporadic bits of communication we do get from him. My partner keeps saying we have to catch him in the act, we need solid proof, etc. (I think that will take a long time and doesn't seem like an effective plan, but I also want to respect his ideas and of course I don't want to sever communication.)
    3. Finally, for those who have lived with people making these choices over years of struggle, will he ever know or acknowledge how much we love him? Do kids who mess up go to their parents' funerals and feel bad? I realize this sounds very melodramatic, but I am stunned by how self-centered he is and how little he appreciates all the advantages he has both received and earned before the depression arrived.
    Thanks for listening.
  2. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    Wow. Welcome loving parent.

    1. Marijuana is a gateway drug. By itself, it leads to lack of motivation at the very least. If it continues, and your son has the DNA of an addict, it can be just the start of what many on this board are dealing with. You can't determine if he is an addict or not, and it truly doesn't matter right now. And you can't force recovery. He is 16 so you can say what will and will not happen in your home and what the consequences will be of all of his behavior, inside and outside the home. I had no idea of my son's issues until after he was a legal adult. If I had known, I would have done much more---who knows if it would have changed the future or not?---than I did do. One thing I would INSIST on---my son too has depression and anxiety---is treatment for that---medication AND therapy. No excuses. If you want to eat and sleep and do ANYTHING in this house/your life, you will be treated by professionals for this. Non-negotiable. I regret that, but I didn't know. I believe my son self-medicated for his own issues for way too long.

    2. I would drug test him. I would tell him that at any time I suspect that you are high I reserve the right to drug test you. He is going to do whatever he is going to do anyway. You have to decide what you, as a parent, need to do. I disagree with your partner. Buy drug tests and tell him the deal. Realize that drug tests don't test for everything.

    3. Right now, he is 16 years old. It's all about him. It's all about what he wants to do. One day, by the grace of God, they will look back and thank us. Don't even expect or get upset about any of that right now. Let that go. Teenagers are self-absorbed and in our culture today, they are worse than ever for a much longer time. A lot of that is our fault.

    All of this is just my humble opinion, but I am speaking from my heart here. I wish I had the chance again to do some of these things. The outcome might be the same, but I would have been more focused on the real problems and not just waiting for things to get better, him to grow up, etc. for way too long.

    I am sorry you are having to deal with this. You are at the right place. We will support you no matter what you decide to do.
  3. bluebell

    bluebell Member

    I whole-heartedly agree with com. My difficult child is not much older than yours, newly 18, but he's been on the 'dark side' since age 12. It did start with marijuana, and marijuana is always around, other drugs do come and go, alcohol is a big one lately. Seems like forever.

    We did drug-test, therapy (no medications when he was younger - wasn't diagnosed or prescribed until January of last year when he became violent - but he is noncompliant now), no doors, no phone, p-hospital, lived in country with relatives, homeschool, etc etc. He has been in the juvenile system since he was 13. I don't know what I would do different, probably nothing different. All kids are different, I believe you have to try everything - at least until they are 18 and you are worn out from trying. I do think my son could not handle all the control we were trying to force on his life and that contributed to his violent behavior - but most kids will try to modulate and conform their behavior to 'stay under the radar'. I know my daughter does!

    I am hoping that your son does not belong here, that this is just a phase and with a little pressure (I say yes on the drug tests), guidance and direction, he will make the right decisions for his life.

    For number 3, my son's mantra is that we don't love him. That gives him all the psychic energy he needs to justify destroying his life. I really don't count on this way of thinking changing for him. Like COM says, it's all about him right now and it is that way even for 'normal' kids. Even my easy child is out for herself, she just happens to understand that if momma's happy, things go a lot smoother for her as well. If you are on this path you have to grow a thick skin, of course easier said than done and there are others much further along this than me. I'm just now making the transition from seeing him as a child and in the first stages of detachment.

    Good luck and remember to take time for yourself thru this, I did not and it is my BIGGEST regret as my health is taking a turn for the worse, and I can't help but wonder.
  4. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I did drug test my difficult child, often. I started after she got into legal trouble as a juvenile because of it. I know many people who can smoke pot recreationally and nothing bad happens. I adopted my difficult child and know her background history so I had good reason to be worried about the gateway drug effect. Honestly if it had been my easy child I don't think I would have been as worried. But difficult child's grades, friends, behavior, all led me to believe this was a much more serious problem and included alcohol and very poor choices.

    You can't force your son to go to NA. I don't know if this matters but the large majority of NA members in our area are heroin addicts. That was not a good environment for my difficult child to be around. Many are court ordered and not following the program.

    I understand your worry, truly I do. I was standing in your shoes about nine years ago when my difficult child was 14 and smoking pot and drinking. We forced her into rehab and she lived in transitional housing (sober house) for almost a year. She is now living with her boyfriend, has a good steady job and a completely different person. She still drinks, does not use any drugs (is drug tested at work sporatically) and is very responsible in her life now. It took a long time and she will struggle financially forever probably, but I do not fear that she is an addict, at least I have not seen any indication in years.

    I don't know if this helps. I found that I had to go with my gut. If my neighbor would have had the same things going on with her daughter she would have just assumed it was experimentation and she would have been right. I had to do what I did because my gut told me if I didn't step in she would make some choices that she could never undo.

    As far as your last question, this is what my difficult child wrote on my fb page for my birthday: "Happy Birthday to this amazing woman!! You are always there for me and taught me what it means to be a family and how to love someone unconditionally. I can only hope I become half the woman you are! I love you with all my heart."

    This was from someone who hated me just a few years back and told me she wished I would jump off the bridge and she would stand there and laugh.
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  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Nancy, I am going to momentarily hi-jack the thread to say that your daughter's message to you brought me to tears. I remember your long struggle and it is just wonderful that she has not only turned around, but that she values the mother you have been to her. That's just awesome!!!!
  6. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart MWM. That means a lot because you are one of the few people who knows the struggle we went through. I am grateful every day for the turn around and so thankful we didn't give up.
  7. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    I think drug testing is a mixed bag. You cannot control his drug use and you cannot force him to go to AA or NA. I think the best thing to do is to set some serious guidelines for behavior and have consequences for not meeting the guidelines.

    The big problem I see with drug testing is that they find ways around it, and that becomes part of the game. My son discovered several OTC medications that do not show up on drug tests... such as robitussen, and also synthetic pot. So although I agree pot is a gateway drug and would not encourage its use in any way, some of the things they do because they want to get high but not have it show up on a drug test are much more dangerous than pot.

    So I would not deal with the pot issue so head on as drug testing.... I would really focus on behavior and consequences for bad behavior. And I would include coming in high as a behavior... and certainly if that is a concern then if and when he is old enough no use of hte car etc.

    Good luck. Its a tough road.


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  8. bluebell

    bluebell Member

    Yes, I have to agree in retrospect. My son did turn to synthetic pot during the 'drug testing' days. But he was being drug tested on his juvie court days also during this time so it wasn't just me doing the testing. I'm not sure if I would have tested him had he not been on probation, I felt like it was my duty and I wanted to somehow control and diminish the outcome of his actions back then. But he was either very unfortunate or very stupid, he got arrested quite often at the beginning, so it was never just a parental issue for us, but a legal one as well.

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  9. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree with toughlovin. I wouldnt become a police state in your home. I am one who tends to side on the legalization of marijuana so it will all become moot soon anyway except for the fact our kids will be smoking it under aged. Just like they manage to find a way to drink under aged.

    Worry about behaviors. If you can figure out how to curb those you are on the upside. Years later I have thought back to when my son was a little boy and all this was just starting. I know without a doubt my son's biggest motivator was money. I wish from a very young age I had used money, just small amounts on daily basis, to motivate him into better behavior. Nothing else worked. Some kids are motivated by TV time, books, computers, outside time...something...but my son could out wait me on anything. Beside that, he just did what he wanted anyway.

    As far as your son hating you, well my son spent most of his teen years in group homes and he knows it is all his fault. Anything we had to do to him he will tell you was his doing. He just wasnt going to be told what to do. He doesnt blame us one bit. Never has. He adores us which actually makes some of this stuff harder.
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Go with your gut, regardless of what ANYONE else says. You have gut instincts for a very powerful reason. They are the first line of defense against ANYTHING wrong with your child - meant to help ensure the survival of the species. The most important lesson I ever learned was to follow my instincts no matter what. The biggest mistakes I have made for myself and for my kids have ALL, every last one, been the result of not following my gut instincts.

    I would attack the mental health issues, the depression and whatever else is in there, because often people turn to drugs because they are medicating a problem. Sure, they say it is fun, esp as kids, but many are really crying out for help. Mental illness is NOT a weakness any more than strep throat or heart disease are. It is an actual illness caused by something wrong in the body and it needs treatment just like any other illness. If your son had a broken ankle and was using a tree branch to keep his weight off of it, you would not just insist he walk without the branch. You would take him to the hospital for xrays and a cast and you would have him use crutches or a wheelchair. Depression is the same thing, only he is using marijuana instead of a tree branch, and he needs to see a psychiatrist and a psychologist rather than an orthopedic doctor and maybe a physical therapist. If you fix the depression, chances are the use of illegal drugs will stop.

    It won't be easy to get him to a doctor and get him to cooperate. It can take time to find the right medications and the wrong ones can have side effects and cause other problems. He needs therapy in addition to medications and that can also be hard to accomplish. You have to keep making him take his medications and go to therapy, even if he refuses to talk for a while. You have to listen to him about how the medications make him feel, and make adjustments if he is miserable from side effects, but you have to make him keep trying until th right one is found.

    How do you do that? Make it non-negotiable if he wants ANYTHING at all. If he gets hardcore in his refusal, you can strip his belongings to only the bare minimum mandated by the state - mattress on floor, pillow and blanket, 7 outfits (NOT his favorites, not new, basic serviceable, used if he outgrows them), and one pair of shoes. Food for meals but again, NOT his favorites or really even ones he likes. NO CASH, no matter how he spends it, no phone, no electronics. He can earn his things back by taking his medications and going to /participating in therapy.

    You should only strip all that stuff if he forces you to. This is the BIG gun, not the first one you use. If you know what motivates him, use that rather than cracking down super hard, esp at first.

    Given his age, I would start to address one issue now. That is his privacy. Even at 16, many tdocs will refuse to discuss his therapy with you with-o his permission. You have to find a therapist that both you and your son can work with and part of that is negotiating this issue. Let your son know that refusing to allow his docs to speak with you will end many of the good things in his life. Why? He is still a child, and his mind is not yet ready to understand the ramifications of his actions. He also does not have the grasp of his medical history, so if you cannot work with the doctor, scary things can happen. You know him better than anyone, and even better than he does sometimes (don't EVER tell him that!!) and it takes a whole TEAM to help him. I let my kids all know that as long as they live in my home, I will have access to their medical records, docs, everything. No exceptions. I will do all I can to respect their privacy and to not push if they ask me not to, but if a major issue comes up, I WILL speak to their doctors and they WILL allow it. None of my kids have ever fussed about this, largely because I do what I can to understand and respect their wishes unless it is a major issue and they will be hurt badly if I let it go. One example was my difficult child wanting to make his own medication decisions, but a doctor talked him into trying a medication that he had taken years before. This medication caused serious side effects that required a trip to the ER, but the docs thought that since ten yrs had passed, it was somehow okay to try it again. I freaked. Luckily he hadn't taken it when I found out, because he is severely allergic to it and we had been warned that each future exposure would be far worse than the one before. his doctors thought that by 'allergic to' we meant it made him sick to his stomach, NOT that it gave him breathing problems and a bad rash.

    I hope you can help with the depression and that it will end the need and desire to self medicate. that would be the route I would take. If he wants to not take drug tests, then he can comply with a psychiatrist and therapist Refuse those and a full drug test panel might be needed. Esp as many kids will admit to pot when they are doing MUCH more - even the really hard drugs are often used by kids even younger than your son.
  11. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    This is good advice. It may sound harsh, but you can fool around for months and years---until they reach adulthood---begging and reasoning and waiting on them to do what seems like basic common sense. You have debilitating depression, get help. Simple, right?

    Evidently not with difficult children. I spent way way too long trying to get my son to get help but I didn't crack down hard like this on the consequences of not getting help. I would make appointments, push him into the car, drag him to the office, go into the doctor's waiting room with him, go into the exam room with him, talk to the doctor separately, talk to my son about the medications, then...he wouldn't take the medications. Same with therapy. If he ever did go to therapy and actually sit down in the chair across from the therapist, he wouldn't talk.

    You can lead a horse to water...

    If I had cracked down on his life much more deliberately, and been consistent with it, and stuck to my guns, no matter what his excuse and reason-of-the-day was, perhaps....

    You never know, but I wish so much I had done that.

    Absolutely. Get his written permission with all of his current docs. If he doesn't give it, all of the above happens.

    It's hard to be this tough, but your child's life is at stake here. He's 16 and you have two more years of influence. After that, you have very little.
  12. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Reading my post back it is a bit disjointed. That happens to me sometimes. I had a brain injury several years ago and I can get lost.

    I still stand on my position on not just suddenly deciding you are going to do random drug tests. I dont think parents should be the ones who need to police our kids. Now if something comes up where you feel you have to do this such as he got caught driving under the influence then yes, he would have to pee clean for X amount of time before he was trusted with the car again.

    But I would look at what the behaviors are that are leading you to think your son may have a bad drug problem. If he is stealing, lying, whatever...then take action on those behaviors dont just blame it all on the "evil drug" because that gives him an out.
  13. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    I totally agree with Janet here... look at the behaviors not the potential drug use... and if you think there are mental health issues do what you can to address those.

    I dont think at 16 I would take everything away if he doesnt seek mental health help. At this point you need to do what you can to strengthen your relationshp, not create more divide. I know this is really hard.... and honestly I am not sure I know how to do that. However I say this because I dont think this is what I did back then and I wish I had. Obviously you still have to be the parent and there are some things that are non negotiable, I agree with that. But for mental health issues and for drug issues it works a whole lot better if he is part of the process.

    So definitely stay away and look at the behaviors and address those directly.


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  14. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    If you decide to drug test, make sure it is not too easy to get around it.

    Both my kids (easy child seldom, difficult child more often) give random, surprise drug, or more the doping, tests but also street drugs are tested in those. The protocol is rather intense. For example if difficult child has bad luck and gets drawn to test after a game or practise (difficult child is in the pool where he is only tested after games or practises, he doesn't need to give WADA information where they can find him every day in certain hour like many individual athletes have to), the officer performing the test will come to tell him about it. After that difficult child is allowed to shower while the officer is watching him every moment, after that the officer will monitor him putting his clothes on after the officer has checked his clothes. He is only allowed to drink water from the water bottle that has not been opened, the officer will open it to him. They go to the testing quarters (i.e. empty locker room they have prepared for the testing) and difficult child will continue drinking while the officer doesn't turn his sight from difficult child even for a second. When difficult child feels he can give the sample, they will go to bathroom, where the officer will check difficult child's private parts to make sure there is nothing extra. When difficult child gives a sample the officer has to see, where the urine sample comes from.

    If you want drug tests that are anyway worthwhile (i.e. not easily gotten around) that is the type of procedure you have to follow. Are you really ready for that?

    It is highly unpleasant and embarrassing. difficult child and easy child are ready to go through it for their sport, but I have to say I would really hate it, if I would police something like that with my sons.

    If you let him take drug tests for example in closed bathroom or without checking where the urine is coming from, you will just teach him ways to get around drug tests and give yourself false sense of comfort, when the tests come back clean.
  15. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    So true Suzir. My son was on intensive probation for almost 3 years and only failed one drug test. He knows how to pass them. Well its easy to pee completely clean. Its much harder to pee exact amounts of differing medications that are supposed to be in your system if they arent really there. You would have to know someone who took the exact same medication and then get a sample from them. Down here they dont actually watch you pee but they dont let you take anything in with you and they check the sample for body temp but that is easy to get around if you well...tuck and roll!