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Home Drug Tests Sold Online Have Limitations

Home Drug-Testing Kits May Not Be Accurate

WebMD Health News

April 7, 2004 -- Parents who buy home drug-testing kits on the Internet may not be getting the whole story.

A new study shows that none of the web sites studies that sold drug-testing kits provided adequate instruction on how to properly perform or interpret a drug test, and little information is provided on the risks of false-positive tests results.

Researchers say more than 200 drug-testing kits have been approved for home use without a prescription use since they were introduced in 1997. Several web sites specifically market these products to parents and encourage them to institute a "home drug policy."

But researchers say those recommendations are at odds with the policies of many professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, because they don't address issues of testing an adolescent against his or her will or giving adolescents the right of informed consent.

Little Information Provided About Home Drug Tests

In the study, published in the April issue of Pediatrics, researchers surveyed eight Internet sites that sold home drug-testing products. The products include hair, saliva and breath alcohol, and urine tests.

Researchers found most sites gave conflicting or incomplete information about which drugs were detected by the various tests. They found 14 indications for home drug testing were cited and all of the web sites claimed that drug testing was a way to know with certainty whether a child has used drugs.

However, no site included detailed instructions on how to collect a valid specimen for testing, and the sites did not adequately address the technical challenges of testing and the potential for inaccurate results.

Researchers say the potential for false-positive or false-negative results exists with every laboratory drug screening, and these errors may be even greater when using a home-based drug test.

For example, false-positive results for amphetamines are common and may occur when the child is using cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine.

In addition, only two of the sites gave suggestions on what parents could do if their child was using drugs.

Finally, researchers found only one site made a clear statement against testing an adolescent against his or her will.

"All in all, the quality of the information varied from site to site, and no single site contained adequate information to perform and interpret accurately a drug test and then make reasonable treatment decisions," writes researcher Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues.

"We believe that parents would be better served by a professional assessment for any young person who is suspected of using drugs."

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