Lessons from Laura

Lessons from Laura

The Gift: Drug testing your children? One Parent's Perspective

Lesson from Laura by Carolyn Bradfield

Hindsight is always 20/20 and I want to share a creative strategy that I would have used to help my daughter Laura avoid that peer pressure and the difficult decision to begin using drugs when her brain and body were at their most vulnerable. My very good friend began drug testing his only son on a regular basis when he was in middle school. This is a great kid, standout athlete, good student, and has a good friend base. So, if there was no indication that he was using drugs or might use them, why implement drug testing and why do it so early? 

Being proactive with a drug test strategy takes difficult choices off the table.

One of my friends, a business professional in long term recovery, has used the strategy of testing his son for drugs, beginning in middle school. When he started this strategy, his son was young, had no indication that he was using or was even going down that path.

He presented the testing as a "gift" to his son to take the burden of making the decision to use drugs off the table. His son could go to his friends, blame his dad for being not cool, and just let his friends know that he would be caught. This wonderful young man, graduating from high school this year, has thanked his mom and dad over and over again for the gift.

Whether you are proactive and use drug testing as a preventative strategy or you are reacting to what you perceive is drug use by your child, here are some facts about drug testing you need to know.

How long do drugs stay in your system?

When someone uses pot or takes other drugs, the residual effects stay in your system for a period of time. If you are using the most common and least expensive testing strategy, urine testing, the amount of time those drugs stay in the system depend on the drug, the frequency of use, and your body type. For example, if you smoke pot once or only a few times a month, the test can look back over 1-2 weeks. More frequent use will keep THC in one's system for 1-2 months.

Other substances like cocaine, opiates or meth will be detected for 2-5 days. If you really want a high level of accuracy and a much longer look back, a hair test vs. a urine test is the right choice. Ingesting drugs will transfer those substances right into the hair follicle and then into the strand. They stay there forever. Pull out a few strands of hair from the follicle and you can get a 100% accurate look back over a much longer period of time.

How much does drug testing cost?

The good news is that urine-based drug tests are very inexpensive, can be purchased at any drug store or ordered directly from Amazon. For example, Amazon sells a product called Easy@Home offering a 5 pack, 5-panel drug test for around $12. That's only $2.50 a test!. If you want to purchase a hair testing kit, those are also available on Amazon for about $65. Remember those don't need to be used that often, but can confirm the results of a urine drug test.

What should your testing strategy be?

Urine tests can be fooled with a number of strategies ranging from synthetic urine, someone else's urine, or cleansing techniques. If you are planning to test, make it random, do it in different bathrooms, and watch out for the child, like my daughter, who is determined to outsmart you.


If I had to do it over again and knowing that my daughter was at such high risk, I would have proactively started testing her before she entered high school. That might have taken some difficult choices off the table and might have bought her some time to have her brain develop just a little more.

InterAct LifeLine

InterAct provides technology for Virtual Care and Opioid Education Programs for use by treatment programs, state and local governments and non-profits.  Carolyn Bradfield founded InterAct LifeLine in 2018, shortly after her daughter overdosed and died.

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