Over the past several years, drug test kits marketed for home use have become increasingly available. Most of the marketing of these kits has been towards parents being able to test their children. Here are some pointers for parents who are considering using home drug test kits.
FDA Over-the-Counter Clearance
The FDA takes the position that all drug test kits marketed for consumer use must be FDA cleared for over-the-counter use (OTC). Furthermore, FDA requires that home drug test kits include a mechanism for confirmation testing. Therefore, in addition to an on-site test device, FDA cleared home drug test kits include a specimen bottle and shipping box to send the specimen to a laboratory for confirmation testing. The cost for the laboratory confirmation test is included in the cost of the kit. The inclusion of the confirmation test explains why home drug test kits sell for significantly higher prices than do on-site kits marketed for professional use.
What drugs to tests for?
Parents need to understand that there is not a single “drug” test kit that will detect all the possible drugs of abuse. A drug test kit detects only the specific drugs indicated for that kit. If the home drug test kit does not include the panel for the drug that a child might be abusing, the kit cannot detect that drug. The parent must have an idea about which drug(s) their child might be abusing, and purchase a kit to detect those particular drugs.
Beating a drug test
A parent can assume that a child who is abusing drugs is also knowledgeable about how to beat a drug test. Even if they have selected the correct drug test panel to detect the drug of abuse the child may be using, the tricks of substituting and adulterating urine specimens may prevent the home drug test kit from detecting the drug.
Window of detection
Drugs of abuse remain in the system anywhere from one or two days to a week. A person must have used the drug within the window of detection for that drug in order for a drug test kit to detect its presence.
To test or not to test?
Although this is the last item in our discussion, the very first question parents must address is if it makes sense to test their children for drugs at home. We don’t take a position on that issue. That is a question that every parent must evaluate for themselves. For a contrary point of reference, the American Academy of Pediatrics “encourages parents who are concerned that their child may be using drugs or alcohol to consult their child’s primary care physician or other health professional rather than rely on school-based drug screening or use of home drug-testing products.” Read their complete policy statement here.