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Drug-Testing Kits Provided to Parents to Start Dialogue with Kids

The Short of It

A pilot program in West Virginia is providing free drug-testing kits to parents in an effort to prevent youth substance use and abuse.

The Lowdown

The "Give Me a Reason" pilot program has developed a drug-testing kit that aims to educate moms and dads about why kids use drugs and alcohol, help them protect their children, give tips on how to communicate with their kids, and provide tricks to spotting and dealing with substance abuse. It's a partnership among the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership, Mayor Steve Williams' Office of Drug Control Policy and the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

In addition to an anonymous survey and communication tools to use, parents will be provided with a saliva scan, which tests for marijuana, opiates, oxycodone, methamphetamine, cocaine, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methodone and phencyclidine (PCP).

The hope is that the distribution of the kits will lead to mothers and fathers having open and honest conversations with their kids about substance use and abuse so they never need to use the drug test.

"Every home has a fire extinguisher in the house, but they don't use it," Kristi Justice, executive director for Kanawha Communities that Care, which is organizing the kit distribution in Kanawha County, told The Herald-Dispatch. "That's how we're going to look at these kits."

The program's name, "Give Me a Reason," can mean two different things, Justice said: For parents, it could mean, "Give me a reason to talk to my kids about staying away from drugs," and for kids, it could mean, "Give me a reason to say 'no' in the face of peer pressure." For example, if kids are at a loss for how to stand up to peer pressure, they could always respond with, "I can't. My parents have a drug test kit."

The Upshot

This is an interesting way to prompt moms and dads to talk to their kids about alcohol and drug abuse, and I suppose the threat of parents having a drug test they can administer at any time could prevent some kids from engaging in drug use. Time will tell if the program is successful. I'll be curious to find out how many families give their kids a drug test and if youth substance use and abuse declines in the areas where mothers and fathers can particpate in the "Give Me a Reason" program.

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