Will at-home drug testing keep Massena kids clean?

Massena, NY. Photo: Gary Stevens, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Massena, NY. Photo: Gary Stevens, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

North Country now is reporting this week about a new effort Massena is making to keep local kids off drugs: distributing drug testing kits to parents (actually, they’re giving them to the school district for distribution to parents who want them.) It’s part of an initiative by the Massena Drug Free Coalition called “Trust but Verify.”

Police chief and coalition chairman Timmy Currier told the paper the new effort could be useful in a couple ways. First, it could help kids resist social pressure to use drugs: “The purpose of this program is first, to act as a deterrent and provide kids with an excuse not to use since they could be drug tested by their parents.”

Second, he says if parents do test their kids and find they are in fact using drugs, they can deal with it privately: “The parent can consult with their family physician or another confidential professional and determine the best approach in treating their child. This will be done without punitive action and focus completely on getting their child the help they need.”

The kits can detect cocaine, meth-amphetamines, opiates, THC, oxys and benzodiazepines, and the article reports the test is 98 percent reliable.

Tests are free and made available through a partnership of the Massena Police Department, St. Lawrence County Probation Department, Rose Hill Adolescent Chemical Dependency Program and Massena Central Schools. If parents need to talk about a positive result or the testing process, they can call a local and confidential help line 800-776-7344. Pickup locations are listed in the article.

Both interim school superintendent William W. Crist and Tina Buckley, director of the Rose Hill program, agree this is a positive move. Here’s Crist, talking to NCN:

“I applaud the parents who have taken a test kit for their children to “Trust But Verify” the stark reality of our youth being tempted by street drugs and unprescribed Massena Drug Free Coalition prescription medication…Our schools represent a miniature model of our community. Both should be safe places for our young people to grow, learn and mature. Drugs and substance abuse don’t permit that safe environment to exist.”

And Buckley:

“Free drug testing is a great opportunity for parents to practice prevention within their family. By having the tests visible and close by it allows parents to give their child an out when they are pressured to use and also is available if the parent has concerns about a child’s behaviors. This opportunity is a win-win for families.”

Massena’s making ongoing efforts to tackle its drug problem, both on the consumption side (for example, five students at the high school were recently taken to the hospital after taking prescription drugs at school) and the distribution side (recently). In the past, the village has tried to deal with the problem in several ways, including increasing surveillance in certain areas and drafting a nuisance law, as well as more traditional law enforcement measures.

Writing about the surveillance question at the time, I raised the question of whether the village’s plans might represent a potential civil liberties issue. I’m interested in that same question here. I’m intrigued by the notion that the drug test would be considered an “out” for kids who don’t want to use drugs but might feel compelled to do so by social pressure, but on the other hand, isn’t there something a little unsettling about the possibility, as a high school kid, of being randomly tested for drugs by your parents?

What do you think? Am I flying off the handle here? Is this completely reasonable? Or would you look at this and say “I don’t think that’s OK?” Read the whole article on NCN before you make up your mind…

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12 Comments on “Will at-home drug testing keep Massena kids clean?”

  1. Verplanck says:

    Trust but verify, the language used in nuke negotiations with the USSR. If that’s the tone parents take with their kids, don’t be surprised if they start acting like an obstinate totalitarian regime.

    Also, what if the parents don’t care? Arguably, those are the households pose the greater risk to teens using drugs than nosy moms and dads who have zero respect for their child’s privacy and personal judgment

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  2. The Comment Kills Fascists says:

    The city fascists are too busy creating new little fascists to learn to communicate and build trust and understanding with their kids.

    Timmy Currier needs someone to “trust, but verify” his basic parenting skills.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  3. The Original Larry says:

    In home drug testing will do nothing more than confirm what parents already know or at least, should know. In fact, it may do more harm than good by alienating children from their parents. The only way to prevent drug use in children is by constant, effective parenting that includes providing a good example of a reasonable, safe life. Even so, there is always an element of chance involved.

    Popular. Like/Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  4. Hopefully the parents first and foremost serve as a model of the behavior they wish their kids to follow. If the parent administering the test is addicted to pain killers or gets drunk all the time, then it certainly undermines their credibility.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  5. Philip Williams says:

    The flipside of this is the parent getting a “false negative” and figuring everything is OK. Very few parents will take this to the extreme of being certain they have a fresh and actual urine sample from the “child”. Substituted samples and dilution occur even in military environments and will certainly occur at home. These tests have almost no ability at all to detect methamphetamines, which metabolize very quickly. The literature accompanying these products is not easily understood either.

    I guess the best thing about it is that these tests are done at home, and can’t and won’t be used for criminal prosecution. Presumably, the chief of police has a memo to pass out as to “what’s next” in the event of a positive sample. These kits have been available commercially, in most drug stores, for five or eight years, but they are not cheap. My suggestion to any parent getting a positive is to immediately accompany the kid to a “doc in the box” to have a medically administered, DOT approved urine test, which will get an honest read-out.

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  6. oa says:

    Q: Will at-home drug testing keep Massena kids clean?
    A: No.
    This, as they say, has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

    Popular. Like/Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  7. mervel says:

    There is different levels.

    If your child is a heroin or oxy addict, which is not unheard of in the North Country; for their own good and health you as a parent should know. This is not catching a kid who is smoking some pot, it is about saving her life. It is indeed easy for kids to become addicts of these sorts of drugs particularly pain narcotics, without the knowledge of the parents. In addition it is true that kids need an excuse to use for not partaking and this sort of thing can be that use.

    It is not an ultimate answer and I am not sure if I would do it a a parent of young teens now, but I don’t think it is so horrible. The fact is most kids don’t use drugs. Far fewer kids use drugs today than 30 or 40 years ago for example. It’s a matter of discretion and the dynamics of the family.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  8. mervel says:

    I would be in favor of drug testing the entire school however, including administrators and teachers.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  9. stillin says:

    no.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  10. Marlo Stanfield says:

    I’m not always opposed to drug testing your kids. If you know they’ve been doing coke or heroin and haven’t been able to catch them otherwise, maybe it’s the best solution in that instance. But encouraging it as something all parents should be doing is a bad, bad, bad idea. Why would you do that to your kid if you don’t have any reason to think they’re using drugs? This seems like it would undermine what should be a trusting relationship. You treat people like criminals, they start to act like criminals.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  11. Marlo Stanfield says:

    When I was in DARE in 5th grade, we had an assignment where we had to guess how many kids at the local high school used drugs. Everyone else in my group thought it was something around 60 or 70 percent. I suggested 13 percent. I figured the point of the assignment was to show us not everyone uses drugs, and I figured there were neighborhoods in the city that weren’t like ours, which would drive down the average. But I was outvoted. I was the group’s presenter, so I told the cop running the class, “I thought it was 13 percent, but the group thought it was 60 percent.”

    “Where did you get that number?” He asked. Turned out, 13 percent was right.

    I remember that, mainly because of the perception, in kids that age, that most older people use drugs. Which leads more people to do it. If you think everyone is doing something, you’re going to do it. Drug testing everyone just further fosters the perception that everyone is on drugs, even though it’s just a minority, and that has the opposite effect of what you want.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  12. Mervel says:

    I would agree Marlo.

    I think if you are dealing with what you feel may be a true addiction in your child, it is needed and I think can work.

    But 100% all parents testing their kids? No I don’t think that is needed, I would not do it right now and I have teens. However I would do it if I had serious concerns.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

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