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How to Respond If Your Teen Tests Positive for Drugs

Posted by Zeynep Ilgaz

In my last post, I wrote about some strategies parents can try in order to prevent teen drug use.  By taking these steps, you can minimize the chance that your children will use drugs, but you can’t eliminate the possibility entirely. If your child does test positive for drugs, it’s crucial to address the matter as soon as possible. Taking action immediately can improve your chances of getting your child the help he or she needs and avoiding further damage.

These seven steps can help you navigate the situation as smoothly as possible.

Gather yourself. Finding out that your child tested positive for drugs can be startling, so take a moment to breathe, compose yourself, and calm down. You may feel angry, guilty, or betrayed. These emotions are understandable, but remember that focusing on your teen is what’s most important.

Confirm the results. It’s always best to get a second opinion of the test from a laboratory. A lab test can also tell you more about your child’s drug use, such as which drugs came back positive and at what levels.

Talk to your teen. Confront your child without imposing judgment. Ask what’s going on in his or her life and discuss specific things you’re concerned about. Share the test results and be ready to listen.

Expect excuses. Your teen will likely try to deny any drug use. This is a typical reaction, so be prepared for it. However, be aware that secondary exposure to drugs (for instance, being in the same room with people who are smoking pot) will not result in a positive drug test. A person must ingest a drug to test positive.

Discuss the reasons not to use drugs. Avoid scare tactics. Instead, emphasize how drug use can negatively affect what’s important to your teen, such as sports, driving, health, school, relationships, and physical appearance.

Look for solutions. Don’t blame or judge your teen. Use this as an opportunity to work together on boundaries and expectations. Discuss ways to resist peer pressure and turn down offers of drugs.

Repeat the message. Even though you don’t want to dwell on your child’s mistake, continue engaging in the drug conversation. Frequently observe your teen, and remind him or her that you’re always there to talk.

Teen drug use should be a serious concern for all parents, regardless of where you come from or how you’ve raised your children. Being educated, talking to your children about the dangers of drugs, and keeping the lines of communication open are the best preventive measures a parent can take. And if your teen tests positive for drugs, remember that you haven’t failed. Act decisively and calmly to get your child the necessary help to set him or her back on the right course.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: For information about available resources in your area to help address teen drug use, contacting the 211 Helpline could be a good place to start.  The 211 Helpline is an information and referral service which connects people with resources and services in their community.  You can reach them by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by visiting in the US.  In Canada, you can contact the 211 Helpline by calling 1-800-836-3238 or by visiting


About Zeynep Ilgaz

Originally from Turkey, Zeynep Ilgaz and her husband co-founded Confirm Biosciences and TestCountry, where Ilgaz serves as president. Confirm Biosciences is committed to being on the cutting edge of offering new, service-oriented drug-testing technologies and was recognized as one of San Diego’s Best Places to Work in both 2013 and 2014.

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