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Foundation urges caution before drug-testing teens

August 24, 2004

Drug Foundation urges caution before drug-testing teens

The New Zealand Drug Foundation today expressed disappointment at Morrinsville College's recommendation to parents that they conduct urine tests on their children to detect possible drug use.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said forcing a child to take a urine test for drugs because their parent notices a change in their behaviour, as Morrinsville College was reported today to recommend, would likely not help the situation.

“Communication is the key to help parents deal with possible drug issues that their teenage child might have,” said Mr Bell.

“It's a two-way process and a teenager needs to know that they will be listened to and that their parents are open to hearing about what they have to say.

“Communicating involves listening, not giving lectures or judging. Buying a $30 urine test and then making a child use it is, from the outset, a judgemental act,” he said.

Mr Bell said that it was very important to address the issues of drug use by children and in schools, but warned that drug tests are no solution.

“Drug use among young people is a complex issue, especially when coupled with typical teenage angst. A 'quick and dirty' drug test isn’t going to help anyone, and it’s likely any potential gains of drug testing will not outweigh the costs,” Mr Bell said.

The Drug Foundation recommends that parents:

- Use open questions that don't sound like interrogations,

- Listen carefully without being judgemental,

- Be clear and honest about feelings while remaining calm and reasonable,

- Respect their child's privacy,

- Support and encourage positive behaviour by not focusing on negatives.

The Drug Foundation offered parents of teenagers to contact them for a copy of their booklet Drugs in Focus: A guide to alcohol and other drugs.

For a free copy contact the New Zealand Drug Foundation, phone 04 499 2920, or email admin@drugfoundation.org.nz

ENDS

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