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What to Do If Your Teen Fails a School Drug Test?

Document stating drug test results failed.

It is the phone call or scary letter that no parent wants to receive, the one from their teenager’s school that informs you about a failed drug test.

These days, many secondary schools conduct random drug tests for anyone who participates in extracurricular activities in an effort to prevent drug misuse in high school and middle school. Some schools may even go further and test more or all of their students. If a kid does fail a drug test, he or she could receive penalties such as:

  • Suspension or removal from their extracurricular group
  • Suspension from school for a number of days
  • Mandatory drug testing for a period of time
  • Attendance of a drug education course or drug counseling
  • Community service hours

As for parents, they are often left in a state of shock with all kinds of questions racing through their heads. If you ever find yourself in this situation, here are some suggestions about what steps to take:

  1. Breathe. Take a few moments to gather yourself and process what is happening. It is normal to feel betrayed, mad, or guilty, but don’t be impulsive and angrily confront your teen (or a school official).
  2. Get information about the test. In addition to the substance that your teenager tested positive for, find out everything you can about the testing procedures, who was involved in the process, and what lab or testing facility conducted the test.
  3. Woman holding a specimen cup.
  4. Learn about the law. Though these kinds of drug tests have been validated by the U.S. Supreme Court, your state, municipality, or school district might have additional laws on the books concerning school drug testing and the rights you or your teen might have.
  5. Reach out to a school administrator and the head of the extracurricular organization. A principal may have a different take on the situation than a coach or group sponsor, so make sure everyone is on the same page. 
  6. Reach out to other parents. If you know of another kid who failed a drug test in the past, consider contacting their parents. They’ll have a very good idea of what you’ll have to deal with.
  7. Have a conversation with your teen. Calmly discuss the situation with your son or daughter. Ask them what’s going on in their lives and prepared to listen to the answers without judgment.
  8. Don’t accept excuses. They may try to say the test was mistaken, claim they were only near someone smoking weed (which, by the way, does not trigger a positive drug test), or whine that classmates or kids at other schools don’t have to get tested. Ignore these desperate appeals.
  9. Mete out discipline. If your teen broke your rules about drug use, make sure you impose the appropriate punishment. Don’t feel that the school’s discipline should be the only consequences your teen faces.
  10. Reinforce your stance on drug use. Explain to your teenager why you don’t want him or her taking drugs. Talk about the potential for dependence, criminal charges, and derailed life plans.
  11. Help them fight their way back. If there’s a future date at which your child can rejoin his or her extracurricular organization, support and encourage your teen through the long journey toward that goal. 

While a positive drug test is certainly distressing and difficult for you and your teenager, it’s not the end of the world. Certainly, you should look into teen addiction treatment options if you feel your child has a substance use disorder. However, if it’s clear that it was simply an error in judgment, then think of it as a teachable moment so they can serve out their punishment, learn from their mistake, and put it behind them for good.

If you discover that your teenager has a substance use issue,  contact us today for information on how to help him or her.

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