Doctors: Beware Drug-Testing Kits Sold on Web

Parents warned about false readings, harmed relationships

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MONDAY, April 5, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Parents should avoid home drug-testing kits sold on the Internet because they don't always provide an accurate indication of whether a child is using drugs, says a study in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.

It's difficult for parents to know which test to choose, how to collect a child's hair or urine sample for testing, or to understand the limits of test results, the study found.

"Parents who are anxious to know whether their children are using drugs have easy access to kits sold on the Internet. But home drug testing is not consistent with the guidelines of professional medical organizations," study author Dr. Sharon Levy, a pediatrician at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, said in a prepared statement.

She said parents who use these home drug-testing kits may be wrongly reassured by a "false negative," which would indicate that a child is not using drugs when he or she actually is. On the other hand, a false positive test result may lead parents to mistakenly accuse a child of being a drug user. Moreover, doing this type of drug testing at home, with or without a child's consent, can seriously harm the parent-child relationship.

For her study, Levy reviewed eight Web sites that marketed home drug-testing kits to parents of adolescents.

Instead of these drug-testing kits, Levy recommended that parents who suspect a child may be using drugs to seek an expert assessment.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has information about preventing substance abuse.

SOURCE: Harvard Medical School news release

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