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What You Need to Know About Drug Testing a Loved One

There are several reasons that someone may choose to have their loved one drug tested, including suspicions that their loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol or attempting to enforce sobriety for a loved one in recovery.

Depending on how it is done, drug testing your loved one can be a way for you to participate in their recovery and help encourage them to remain sober. But, drug testing can also give them a sense of personal responsibility while also easing your own stress about whether they might have relapsed back into using drugs or alcohol.

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But drug testing a loved one can also lead to unhealthy behaviors like distrust and resentment. If it is not done in an open and honest manner, drug testing your loved one can instead be a violation of their privacy, robbing them of the chance to prove their commitment to their recovery on their own.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when at-home drug testing a loved one is that drug testing is a not a method of treatment but a tool that can be used to help encourage someone to remain sober in their recovery.

What Are The Benefits of Drug Testing a Loved One?

There are many benefits of drug testing a loved one, especially if they are currently in recovery after graduating from their addiction rehabilitation recovery program. It can provide peace of mind, encourage abstinence, and lead to an improved sense of trust, among other things.

PEACE OF MIND

One of the biggest benefits of drug testing is peace of mind. A clean test can very quickly put to rest any doubts that they are sticking to their recovery plan and that both of your efforts to maintain a healthy, sober environment are paying off.

STRONGER TRUST

Secrets and lies are unfortunately fairly typical in situations where a loved one is struggling with an addiction. It can be very difficult to rebuild trust between an addicted loved one and their family, spouse or partner, no matter how much they want to be trusted again.

Along with peace of mind, drug testing your loved one provides physical proof that they are being truthful about remaining abstinent and working hard in their recovery. Over time this will help to rebuild and strengthen the bond of trust between you and your loved one.

PRIVACY

Another major benefit of drug testing your loved one at-home is that the process is completely private and done in the comfort of you and your loved one’s home. Using a drug testing kit at-home can feel less confrontational, and your loved one will most likely prefer to be drug tested in the confidential privacy of their home where they can feel like they are at least partly in control.

CHANCES FOR POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

If your loved one’s test comes back negative for drugs or alcohol, then it is a perfect opportunity to provide them with positive reinforcement in the form of a reward or celebration.

Even something as small as a nice dinner out can help them feel like their efforts to stay clean and sober are being recognized and rewarded, strengthening their resolve to continue their recovery and remain abstinent

What Are The Disadvantages of Drug Testing a Loved One?

While there are clearly benefits to drug testing your loved one at home, there are also disadvantages to drug testing that are important to keep in mind if this is something that you and your loved one intend to follow through with.

FEELINGS OF RESENTMENT

It is worth considering that there is a strong possibility that your loved one will not want to be drug tested, even if they are actively in recovery. Feeling like they are being forced to submit to at-home drug tests can make them feel demeaned or like they are being treated like a child, which can lead to a more hostile home environment rather than one that is healthy and positive.

FALSE RESULTS

As we will see further down, all drug tests are not created equal. In the case of drug testing kits for at-home drug tests especially, you cannot expect 100 percent reliability. These are not the same kind of drug tests that can be done at a treatment center and determined at a lab.  

Urine tests, in particular, are frequently inaccurate and easy to tamper with, which can lead to false results in either direction.

Both false negatives and false positives can work to destroy the trust between you and your loved one. A false negative can give your loved one the impression that they can relapse without having to deal with the consequences of you finding out. Eventually, they may reach the point in their addiction cycle again where they cannot hide it anymore and you will have to face that they have been using behind your back.

A false positive can lead to unnecessary fights and confrontation. You might become angry because it will seem like your loved one is using and lying to you while they will be angry that you do not believe them when they say that they are actually clean. This is why, if a drug test does come up positive, the next step should be taking a secondary, professional drug test that will be significantly more reliable.

What Types of Drug Tests are There?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), there are six main methods of drug testing:

  • Blood: Tests the levels of drugs or alcohol in the bloodstream for a brief window of time
  • Breath: Measures blood alcohol concentration (BAC) within a few hours of drinking
  • Urine: Tests for drug metabolites in the urine that remain for up to several days
  • Hair: Gives a full account of substance use for up to 90 days, not including current levels
  • Saliva: Tests for drugs currently in someone’s system within a few hours of using
  • Sweat: Tests for drugs through a skin patch for as long as it is worn, typically a week

Of these six, the ones that are most commonly done with at-home drug testing kits are urine, hair, and saliva, each of which has their own pros and cons.

URINE TESTING

Urine drug testing kits are among the most popular since they are both easy to administer and provide quick results. Unfortunately, this speed is not without drawbacks. As previously mentioned, urine tests are both easily tampered with as well as frequently inaccurate.

There are many ways to tamper with a urine sample, like diluting it with water, adding chemicals to it or purposefully ingesting substances that throw off the validity of the test. While many addiction treatment facilities can closely monitor their urine testing to prevent tampering methods, it is significantly harder for families to impose these restrictions on their loved one.

The other issue is that even if someone does test positive for drugs with a urine test, there is a strong chance that it is a false positive. Someone can eat specific foods or take certain vitamin supplements with no idea that they will show up as positive for drugs.

The dangers of a false positive and a family’s reaction to it, thinking that their loved one has relapsed when that is not the case, can destroy bonds of trust and goodwill that both sides have worked so hard to rebuild.

HAIR TESTING

Hair drug tests are both more accurate than urine drug tests and have the added benefit of providing a bigger picture when it comes to your loved one’s possible drug use with its much wider window of time.

The drug content of a hair follicle cannot be tampered with or altered by shampoo, bleach, or dye. Hair can even be discreetly collected if you do not want your loved one to know that you are suspicious they are using drugs and want to test them to be certain before confronting them.

However, because it is more accurate, hair drug testing kits are more expensive, and since hair grows so slowly, it can take up to a few weeks for drugs to become present in someone’s hair follicles.

The other issue is that secretly taking some of your loved one’s hair to test it behind their back can be a major breach of trust, especially if the situation is that your loved one is in recovery. If that is the case, it also robs them of accountability.

One of the ways that drug testing a loved one in recovery can be a good thing is by having it instill in them a sense of responsibility that encourages them to remain abstinent. By drug testing them in secret, you risk not only breaking their trust but also stripping them of having agency in sticking with their recovery.

SALIVA TESTING

Using saliva drug testing may be the happy medium that could work best for at-home drug testing a loved one. These tests are more accurate than urine drug tests and not as easily tampered with but can provide results nearly as quickly. Your loved one can knowingly consent to it and you will be able to get fast, generally accurate results.

The main drawback of a saliva drug test, however, is that the window of time is only a few hours, so they may have to be administered more often than other drug testing kits to avoid missing the presence of drugs that were taken too long ago for the test to catch.  

Making a Plan

If you are planning on drug testing a loved one who is in recovery, then the best way to do it is to have a plan with clear rules and guidelines that everyone will be able to agree on. Ideally, this plan should be created with a professional addiction counselor who has been working with your loved one. Some solid guidelines for an at-home drug testing plan include:

  • What method of testing will be used
  • How frequently your loved one will be tested
  • What they will be rewarded with if they test clean
  • What will happen if they do not pass the test

With the help of a counselor, a family can not only come up with a solid plan for administering random at-home drug testing but also properly understand how best to respond to positive results and know what the next course of action should be.

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What Are The Next Steps?

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that if your loved one does test positive for drugs or alcohol, it does not mean that they have failed in their recovery.

What it does mean is that their current addiction treatment or aftercare support is not properly addressing their needs or targeting the triggers behind their relapse.

What you and your loved can both do is try to make the situation as positive as possible by using their relapse as a means to tweak their relapse prevention and treatment plans to be more effective and provide them with the help they need to stay sober.

If you were drug testing them suspicious they were using substances when they had not shown signs of prior addictions or previously had addiction treatment and they test positive, then the next step is a recovery treatment program. For their own safety and well-being, it is essential that you seek out professional addiction recovery services.

And that’s where our addiction specialists at Delphi Behavioral Health Group can help. Our compassionate, professional team is available around the clock to help you find what treatment options at one of our many facilities will best meet your loved one’s needs.

Call 844-899-5777 now to speak with one of our staff and get connected to the help and resources you need or contact us online for more information.