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My Son Failed a Drug Test, What Should I Do Next?

By Jenny Hunt, Palm Partners Recovery Center

January 24, 2012

Drug testing has become more and more frequent in homes and schools in the US. The ready availability of these drug testing kits online and in pharmacies has led many parents and school administrators to drug test regularly. Many of these drug screening kits are able to test for not only “street drugs,” but also alcohol and nicotine.  What should you do, then, if your child fails a drug test?

  1. Be prepared: Before administering a drug test to your son or daughter, it is very important to ensure that adequate substance abuse assessment and treatment are available. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, drug testing should never be used as the only response to a drug problem. Research treatment options for your child before administering the drug test. Keep in mind that adult treatment programs are often not appropriate for adolescents.
  2. Know what the test results mean: Home drug tests often test for drugs that have been consumed in the last seven days. There are many online resources that can tell you how long a particular drug stays in the system. Alcohol is the quickest to be metabolized by the body; it is usually only possible to detect alcohol in the system hours to a day after use. Also, take note of the medications your child is taking. Some ADD or ADHD medications will cause a drug test to be positive for amphetamines, and some anti-anxiety medications are benzodiazepines.
  3. Talk to your child: If your son or daughter tests positive for drugs, it is important that you are able to discuss the drug test results with him or her. Discuss your child’s drug use with him or her: how long they have been using, what drugs they use, and how much they use. If you suspect that your child may have trouble being completely honest with you about the drug use, consult with his or her primary care physician or another healthcare professional. It is important to keep the lines of communication open.
  4. Consult a professional: When your son or daughter fails a drug test, it is very important to consult a substance abuse professional in order to know how to proceed. Do not assume that your child is being completely honest with you about his or her drug or alcohol use or that they have stopped using drugs and/or alcohol because they are able to pass the next drug test. Urine drug tests are very easy to fool, and the internet is full of advice on how to fake a drug test.
  5. False positives do happen: Keep in mind that a positive result on a drug test does not always mean that your child is abusing drugs. Cold medicines, high dose antibiotics, and, yes, even poppy seeds have been known to cause a false positive on a drug test. If your child tests positive on a home drug test and denies using drugs, take them to be tested at a professional lab. The lab can rule out false positives caused by other things.

If you or someone you know needs drug or alcohol treatment call us at (877) 711-HOPE (4673) or visit us online at

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