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Drug Testing At Home?


Allies Member Listening poses a question about home drug testing. Her Loved One is out of a residential program and now living at home, but has a long history of relapses. What are some important considerations for doing home drug tests?

Home drug testing? Our adult daughter is living at home after a residential program due to long term amphetamine abuse. She is seeing a therapist, a coach and is attending an IOP. She is trying but has a long history of relapses. We are considering daily oral mouth swabs at home to provide an additional deterrent to drug use. Has anyone had experience with this? Was testing helpful? If so, can you recommend a test brand that worked well? We know that drugs stay in the urine longer but we do not want to administer urine tests. Thanks, Listening

This is an interesting question. Having the family do drug tests is complicated. The Loved One can feel like the family is policing. I’d rather see a professional administer the drug tests, such as her therapist or the IOP. A positive test would result in a conversation with the professional and the tightening up of treatment. A drug test is a treatment tool fundamentally. It can inform the family, but to what end?

If the family does get a positive test, what next? Restrict? Talk about treatment, or drug use? The timing of the conversation in this case would not be right from a CRAFT perspective (See Learning Module 8). Chances are it will feel confrontational in this scenario, and your LO will deny or defend themselves. This is not the position you want either of you to be in.

If the family is willing to not react in the event of a positive drug test, but instead to use it as a cue for adjusting their behaviors according to the CRAFT principles, (My Loved One Isn’t Using Right Now – Learning Module 5, or My Loved One Is Using – Learning Module 6), then perhaps this could be an option. But it maybe a significant challenge to carry this through, for a variety of reasons.

I can understand how a family REALLY wants to know, and not guess, about whether or not their Loved One is using, but a saliva drug test reflects past use (up to 5 days prior for amphetamines). So you’d need to not react, rather keep the information in some kind of record for when you are ready to have that planned conversation (Learning Module 8). For example, “We are concerned, you’ve tested positive 3 times in the last month – something here is wrong. Perhaps we need to help you get more treatment?”

One more thought. What would your daughter say about this? Perhaps she wants the accountability of regular drug testing? How does she want you to react if the test is positive? Perhaps this is the case and it is possible to determine that information from an open and neutral conversation with her. If so, it could be that together, you are able to make testing more of a partnership, and less of something that can be perceived as a power play. The CRAFT approach emphasizes the kind of meaningful, empathetic communication that can serve to build and strengthen the bridge between you and your Loved One. If the home drug testing can help accomplish this, perhaps it’s worth a try. If it seems likely that it will reinforce an adversarial mode between you, it would be best to leave the testing in the hands of an outside source.

If you are still interested in pursuing home drug testing with your daughter, there is a good drug test that we are planning to use in our research work in western Massachusetts. It was recommended to us by the folks at Baystate Medical Center. It is called Oraltox:

Your daughter is addressing her addiction to amphetamines – that is such good news. Getting to abstinence is a process, the therapist and IOP can help her stay the course. It’s not easy on the family, when the addiction is so frightening and you have been through so much already. This is the place to come for support on this journey, and with your questions which we always welcome. Keep yourself connected to this community and let us know how it is going.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Just to share my experience with you we have drug tested our daughter while she lived in our home over the years. There are times when she is at an IOP and the testing is done there so we didn’t test at home. When our daughter was going in and out of treatment I felt it helped her be accountable and helped us keep our firm boundaries. If she wanted to live in our home she would need to be sober and if we suspected drug use we felt it was reasonable to ask her for a sample for testing. Now my daughter is pretty stable and has a job. She seems on the right track so I don’t test. With my daughter there are signs of an impending relapse and if I saw those signs I might test and urge her to get help etc. I do think testing can be helpful. It is funny how when my daughter was under 18 years old she told us constantly how she couldn’t wait to leave our home. Now that is is closer to 22 she feels our home is a safe place and would not want to risk getting kicked out. She has 4 months sober and she is not on Suboxone so that is pretty impressive to us and shows her commitment to staying sober. I think you need to go case by case and where your loved one is with their sobreity. Hang in there and go with your gut feelings.

    1. Thank you Shelleybobelly. Drug testing can be useful. Your description of how it has helped over the years is helpful. We are so glad to hear your daughter is doing well. It’s wonderful to hear. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Listening,
      My daughter also wants me to do drug tests at home, after she is discharged from residential treatment. She wants me to “hold her accountable,” in addition to IOP testing. But I too question how it will look in a home setting. Will it create additional tension? My therapist (who works in addiction field and supports family members) thinks it will put me in “drug police mode.” But again, my daughter made the request. And I can see how drug testing at home may promote transparency — a precursor to honesty, which is at the root of a trusting relationship. A lot to think about…
      Please keep us posted.