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Are Popular Music Festivals Endangering Your Teen?

Drugs, Inappropriate Behavior and Death

These last few months have been all the rage with teens and everyone under 30. Music festival season took off, as it does each summer and trails of at the start of fall. So Cal is one of the best places to be if you’re into any type of music from hip-hop and indie to heavy metal and techno. Whatever you’re looking to blow out your eardrums to, there’s a festival for it for sure. These festivals can be fun and are the talk of the town for celebrities all over the world that flock here to things like Coachella for the fashion, the press, the food and most importantly the music. Weeks before these festivals, people wait in their online cue to pay hundreds of dollars or a couple thousand to lay out in the hot California sun for a three-day dehydrating extravaganza. But when do these festivals get out of hand and why? Are popular music festivals endangering your teen?

Not So Wonderful, eh Wonderland?

Just this weekend, Labor Day weekend, there was a huge festival called Nocturnal Wonderland out in Southern California at the San Manuel Amphitheater where thousands flock to see their favorite DJs and mix artists. This festival is one that has to be smack in the center of nature because it gets loud and crazy. Every year there are hundreds of arrests, but this year there was a record 428 arrests made for teens that were under age and under the influence, to people being completely out of their minds on drugs and a few cases of public exposure. This festival is known for drugs and lots of them which are why several arrests were made on those that were at the concert to sell large inventories of drugs such as combinations of anything goes ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, LSD and more.

For some kids, this festival is about exploration and getting out there to try new things without worrying about getting caught. The only problem is this time cops were ready to take down anyone that was doing just that. These festivals would be a perfect place for someone that enjoyed the music and was responsible enough to say no to harsh substances, but many teens that attend have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. There have been a few cases where overdose and death on the first attempt at drug use for young people has occurred at this particular festival. So, if your teen is pushing to go to these concerts, they may not be prepared for what’s available to them; this is where addiction and bad habits are formed, but we should be aware of the risks. Know all the facts and educate your child before you allow them to take part in music festivals such as these.

If you feel your teen has an addiction and needs rehabilitation, please call Visions Adolescent Treatment Center today at (818) 889-3665 to schedule an appointment with our addiction specialists.

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What is “Normal”? Signs of Mental Illness in Teens

The teen years are filled with emotional ups and downs and sudden mood swings. How can you tell whether your teen’s behavior is normal or an indication something might be wrong? Parents of teens may worry that their teen is exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness, but they may not be sure how to identify the condition or talk to their teen about what they are seeing. The staff at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers has some of the early signs of mental illness to watch for and what to do if you see those signs in your own child.

The Prevalence of Mental Illness

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), around 20 percent of youth between the ages of 13 and 18 suffer from a mental health condition. Some of those teens will turn to drugs or alcohol to “self-medicate” their symptoms, creating a substance abuse disorder in addition to a mental illness. A significant portion of those youth also drop out of high school or end up in the juvenile justice system. Common mental illnesses that develop during the teen years include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Behavior disorders
  • Eating disorders

Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14. Another 25 percent occur by the age of 27. The earlier these illnesses are identified and treated, the better prognosis both during the teen years and into adulthood.

Signs of Mental Illness

There are a number of possible signs your teen may be suffering from a mental illness:

  • Mood shifts out of character from your teen’s usual mood fluctuations
  • Withdrawal from family, friends and activities
  • Difficulty in school or relationship problems with friends
  • Behavioral changes that make your child seem like a different person
  • Weight loss without any clear cause
  • Risk-taking behavior completely out of character for your teen
  • Signs of drug or alcohol use that could indicate your teen is self-medicating
  • Symptoms of sadness that last more than a week or two
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations

Any one of these signs alone may not necessarily be a problem, but if you begin to see a pattern that is different from what your teen usually displays, don’t wait to seek guidance and assistance. Talk to your teen about what you have observed – you may be met with resistance, but at least your child will see that you care and you are willing to get the necessary help. The sooner you get your teen the medical support needed, the less likely your child will be to turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of dealing with their illness. If drug or alcohol use is already present, Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers can help. Contact us today at 866-889-3665.

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The Link between Sleep Patterns and Substance Abuse

The link between sleep and substance abuse has been widely studied, particularly in regards to the sleep problems that can arise as a result of drug or alcohol abuse. However, recent studies have also shown a reverse relationship, suggesting poor sleep patterns can also help predict which teens may be drawn to substance use. As more studies show a compelling association between sleep and substance abuse, parents may be able to use this information to lower the risk of substance use by their teens through helping them form healthy sleep habits.

Sleep Patterns and Alcohol or Marijuana Use
Teens that tend to stay up later at night are also more likely to have used marijuana or alcohol within the past month, a new study from the Rand Corporation has found. Researchers asked more than 2,500 teens from 16 middle schools in Southern California about their total nightly sleep time, as well as their marijuana and alcohol use once they reached high school. All of the surveys were completed between May 2013 and April 2014.

“Our findings suggest that sleep issues are independently associated with alcohol and marijuana use for teens, not just a marker for other risk factors, such as depression,” Wendy Troxel, lead author for the study, was quoted as saying in a Rand Corporation press release. However, researchers cautioned that their findings did not determine a cause and effect, so it was unknown if sleep problems simply predict alcohol and marijuana use or actually lead to it.

Sleep Problems May Lead to Binge Drinking
The Rand Corporation study is not the first to show a compelling association between lack of sleep and drug and alcohol abuse. Earlier this year, researchers at Idaho State University studied more than 6,500 teenagers to determine a link between sleep and alcohol problems. Through interviews and questionnaires, the scientists found that sleep issues appeared to be a potential predictor of substance abuse.

Specified sleep problems encompassed difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep, as well as sleeping too little. Specific drug and alcohol issues linked to sleep problems in this study included:

  • Getting drunk or high
  • Binge drinking
  • Driving under the influence
  • Risky sexual behavior regretted later
  • Use of illegal drugs

Although sleep may be an important factor in whether a teen might use or abuse substances, it is certainly not the only one. There are many circumstances that could play into whether an adolescent will choose to use drugs or alcohol. If you suspect your teen is abusing these substances, the professionals at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers can help. Contact us today at 866-889-3665.

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5 Facts Parents Need to Know about Substance Abuse and Addiction

The teenage years can be a tumultuous time, which lead to drug and alcohol use during these years. Parents need to know the facts about substance use and abuse to help their children overcome temptations and pressures to try substances. Below are five basic facts parents need to know about substance abuse and addiction.

Experimenting with Substances is not a Normal “Rite of Passage”

Some parents make the mistake of assuming that experimentation with drugs and alcohol during the teen years is a normal “rite of passage.” After all, they had their wild moments back in their heyday, so it stands to reason their kids will do the same. However, drugs like marijuana are much more dangerous today than they were in the decades when today’s parents were teens. Even casual use can lead to addiction and even death.

Substance Abuse Often Goes Hand-in-Hand with Mental Illness

A high percentage of teens abusing substances may also have a diagnosable mental illness like anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. To ensure a successful recovery, both the mental illness and the substance abuse must be addressed and treated. Parents need to be aware of this potential and watch for symptoms of mental illness that may require diagnosis and treatment.

There are Identifiable Risk Factors for Substance Abuse

While you can’t always predict the teens that will struggle with substance abuse, there are some specific risk factors to recognize. Common risks for teen drug and alcohol abuse include:

  • A family history of substance abuse
  • Early behavioral issues like aggressive or disruptive behavior
  • Mental illnesses like depression or anxiety
  • Disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Biggest Dangers Not Always from Alcohol and Marijuana

Many parents make the mistake of focusing on alcohol and marijuana when evaluating their teens for substance use. However, two other categories of drugs have become increasingly dangerous for teen users in recent years. Prescription drug abuse, involving pain medications, stimulants or depressants, has gone up significantly. Inhalants, involving many common household products, are also a notable danger for teens and even pre-teens today.

Parents can be a Positive Influence in Whether a Teen Uses

Parents often think they have little or no influence over their teenagers during these rebellious years. However, research has shown that setting strong boundaries in the home, making it clear drug use is unacceptable and having regular conversations with your children about drug and alcohol use can make a significant difference in whether teens will use during this period. Don’t be afraid to address the issue of drugs and alcohol with your teens, because if you don’t, someone else very well might.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we work with teens and their families every day to help them overcome substance addiction and discover a healthy, sober lifestyle. To get more information about substance abuse or treatment options, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

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Alcohol Abuse and Sexual Assault: Is There a Link?

Alcohol abuse is a common problem on many college campuses today, but even more frightening is the realization of just how much heavy drinking is tied to the incidence of sexual assault. A new poll from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation showed new evidence of that link, finding that heavy drinking is a significant factor in predicting sexual assault during the college years.

Women More Likely to be Victims

Women that drink more than they should are twice as likely to be the victims of sexual assault as women who never or rarely drink, the poll found. Alcohol was also a factor for the men that were responsible for the assaults. The poll included 1,053 current and recent college students that were living on or near their college campus.

According to this survey, one in five women reported being sexually assaulted during college. More than half of those women – 14 percent – said they were assaulted while incapacitated. Most students that experienced unwanted sexual contact during this time admitted to drinking alcohol shortly before the incident, according to interviews conducted with many of the students that had responded to the poll.

Other Dangers of Alcohol Abuse

Despite the association between alcohol consumption and sexual assault, college students in the poll saw drinking alcohol as the bigger problem of the two. Nearly 40 percent of the students surveyed said that when they drink alcohol in social situations, they sometimes or often drink more than they should. Only three in 10 said that happens rarely, while another three in 10 said it never happens or they don’t drink at all.

Sexual assault is not the only danger associated with excessive drinking during the college years. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), other consequences of college drinking include:

  • Unintentional injury (affects nearly 600,000 students annually)
  • Other types of assault (occurs in around 696,000 students annually)
  • Academic problems (affects around one-fourth of all students annually)
  • Unsafe sex (occurs with approximately 400,000 students each year)
  • Drunk driving (more than 4.8 million students drive under the influence annually)
  • Death (affects around 1,825 students annually)

The College Drinking Problem

College students that drink abusively are also more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. According to a survey by the NIAAA, 19 percent of college students met the criteria for an alcohol abuse disorder. However, only five percent of those students had sought help for their substance abused within the past year.

Drinking alcohol is not a normal rite of passage during the college years. It is a dangerous practice that can turn into a dependency within a relatively short period of time. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, help is available. Contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers today at 866-889-3665 to learn more about your treatment options.


Powdered Alcohol: A New Risk for Teens?

Powdered alcohol may not be available on liquor store shelves just yet, but concern about the new product has been steadily growing in recent months. Known as Palcohol, this powdered substance was developed for the primary purpose of easily bringing alcoholic beverages on camping excursions and other outings where liquids and bottles could be an obstacle. However, the “what if’s?” associated with this product have been enough to get members of Congress in a major battle to have the substance banned before it even goes to market.

Federally Approved

The hoopla over Palcohol officially began in March, when the product was approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. This federal agency is responsible for approving the production, importation and marketing of alcoholic products in the U.S. Since its approval, state and federal lawmakers have jumped to action, introducing bills to ban the substance. Leading the charge is Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who introduced a bill to ban the substance completely on a federal level.

About the Product

Palcohol is the creation of Mark Phillips, who describes himself on the product website as an “active guy who likes to have a drink every now and then in places where bottles and mixers are inconvenient.” The powder comes in five varieties; rum, vodka, cosmopolitan, lemon drop and “powderita,” which is a powdered version of a margarita. All flavors except lemon drop have been approved. The powder can be mixed with water to create a mixed beverage, comparable to other powdered drinks like Kool-aid, only with the alcohol content already included.

Potential Dangers for Teens

Experts are already foreseeing some of the risks of this new product if Palcohol actually goes to market, particularly on teens. Schumer and others have voiced concern that the powder substance would be easy for teens to slip into sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages. There has been speculation the powder could be sprinkled on food or even snorted, although creators of the substance have stated the discomfort of snorting alcohol would make this practice highly unlikely.

Playing the Waiting Game

For now, Palcohol’s parent company Lipsmark is closely watching the political climate before determining where to build a manufacturing plant for the product. The company is also feeling out potential distributors to see what kind of market Palcohol might have. In the meantime, lawmakers are working hard to ensure this new and potentially dangerous substance never makes it that far in the U.S.

Substance abuse and addiction is a serious problem among adolescents in the U.S. Adding more products to the market would only serve to exacerbate the problem. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, help is available. Contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665 to learn more about our treatment programs and get the help you need today.

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Risk Factors for Substance Abuse for Teens

While there is no way to definitively predict which teens might develop a substance abuse disorder, there are a number of risk factors that considerably increase the likelihood an abuse problem will occur. By understanding these risk factors, parents and others involved in a child’s life can employ effective protective actions to minimize the risk. Below are a few of the common factors that raise the chances substance abuse could become a problem by the time a child becomes a teenager.

Family history of substance abuse is one of the biggest risk factors for children develop a substance abuse disorder by the time they hit the teen years. Prenatal exposure to alcohol may also make a person more vulnerable to substance abuse later in life.

Children that are around substance use, either by parents, friends or members of their community, may regard drugs and alcohol as a normal part of life. They may not recognize the dangers of using these substances, which puts them at increased risk of addiction.

Children who are impulsive or aggressive in the early years of life may also be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Aggressive behavior could lead to anti-social tendencies, while impulsivity is an individual risk factor that involves the inability to set limits on one’s behavior.

Mental Health
The connection between a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness is very high. In some cases, the person may use substances to cope with the painful symptoms of the mental illness. Other times, regular substance use may trigger the symptoms of a mental disorder.

Family Life
Children with parents that abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to use the substances themselves. In addition, a home life that is stressful due to conflict or other difficult situations can also make a teen more likely to use substances as a way of dealing with the stress.

Social Life
Children that do not socialize well with their peers are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their loneliness. By the same token, teens who choose friends that use are more likely to use themselves as well.

Struggles in school, whether academically or socially, can also lead to substance abuse. The earlier the school problems begin, the more likely it is that substance abuse will become an obstacle over time.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we have seen teens turn to drugs and alcohol for a wide range of reasons. While prevention should always be the primary focus in keeping this age group safe and healthy, sometimes prevention efforts are simply not enough to keep a potential addiction at bay. The good news is there are also effective methods of treating substance abuse that help teens move away from their abusive behaviors and into a healthier, sober way of life. To learn more about our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

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What You Probably Didn’t Know About Teen Alcoholism Treatment

Raising a difficult teen is hard work and it can seem impossible knowing where and when to turn for help.  This task is made more complicated when your teen has an alcohol addiction.  While many parents want to help their teen through these issues, teen alcoholism treatment is best handled by professionals.  Learning the facts about teen alcoholism treatment can help you make the decision to find a program that can meet your teen’s needs.   

There are several things you may not know about teen alcoholism treatment:

Early Intervention Makes A Difference

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify if your teen is experimenting with alcohol or if they have a substance abuse issue.   Alcohol use as a teenager can easily develop into a full blown addiction.  In fact, 95 percent of adults with addiction issues started using their substance of choice during their teenage years.

In addition to the potential for an addictive lifestyle, there are a number of health risks associated with using alcohol early in life.  If your teen is using alcohol it is important to get them treatment as soon as possible in order to adopt healthy living practices and recover from their addiction.

Adolescents Have Unique Needs

The needs of those in teen alcoholism treatment are completely different than those of people in adult alcoholism treatment.  Due to their continuing physical, emotional, and mental development, teens have unique needs during addiction treatment.  A program that specializes in the treatment of adolescents will provide a supportive, safe, and structured environment that caters to the unique situations teenagers face.  Adolescent treatment programs should prepare teens to deal with the unique challenges they will face after leaving treatment, be it academically, socially, or personally.

Twelve step programs are widely known and have been successful in treating addiction in adults for decades.  While exposure to twelve step programs plays a role in teen alcoholism treatment, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, commonly referred to as DBT, is a better tool for treating adolescent addiction.  DBT focuses on being mindful and staying in the moment, providing the skills to control one’s emotions and building interpersonal skills.  These skills are necessary to overcome addiction and provide the skills necessary to manage stress and conflict without the use of alcohol.

Family Involvement Is Important

The involvement of a teen’s family is a crucial step in recovery.  In fact, many programs require that a teen have an involved family unit as a condition of admission.  Family therapy allows the family to heal together, to recognize the symptoms of dysfunction, and to develop new was to work together as a family unit.  Teen alcoholism treatment centers that discourage family involvement or do not support rebuilding the family unit should be avoided.

Additional Services

A teen focused treatment program will do more than treat the substance abuse.  Treatment should extend to every aspect of a person’s life from basic life skills like hygiene to time management.  The treatment center should include schooling to allow clients to keep up with the cirruculum from their previous school.  If learning disabilities or other issues are present, the adolescent treatment center should be equipped to address these concerns.  After all, it is likely that the stressful situations the teen found themselves in, socially and academically, likely played a role in their decision to self-medicate with the use of alcohol.

Treatment Can Be Fun  

Recreational programs are a must have when treating adolescents.  Teens will be unable to focus on their treatment without a recreational outlet.  Additionally, many adolescents with substance abuse issues will be unable to see how they can have fun without using their substance of choice.  Recreational activities can help adolescents discover their interests and learn that life can be fun and enjoyable without being under the influence.

For additional information on the teen alcoholism treatment programs available at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, schedule a session with a counselor today.  Please click below to schedule your consultation or call us at 866-889-3665.

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Adolescent Outpatient Counseling For Troubled Teens

More rehabilitation centers are being developed around the world. Some cater strictly to children due to their crucial stage of physical and mental development. Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers opened in 2002 with a mission of providing cutting edge mental health, substance abuse, and family treatment. Patients come from southern California, and big cities like NYC and Chicago, as well as internationally.  

Visions has two Los Angeles centers proving adolescent outpatient counseling from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. Monday to Friday with Wednesday for rest. Outpatient counseling is ideal for those who do not need 24-hour care. Afternoon schedules allow the teen to continue with daily activities before sessions.

The objectives for adolescent outpatient counseling in Mental Health:

  • Encourage and motivate to achieve and sustain a healthy lifestyle
  • Help to develop new, more effective problem-solving strategies
  • Assist in recognizing and acknowledging the existence of mental health issues and the impact on family, friends, and future
  • Help recognize and change problematic attitudes which stimulate a relapse

The goals for treating Substance Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders in teens:

  • Assist in identifying unhealthy and/or negative coping mechanisms
  • Assist with identifying situations where drugs and alcohol were used to cope with life’s problems, and understanding that using drugs and alcohol to cope does not work
  • Support with the 12-step philosophy and encourage participation in Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and/or Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Assess and meet the psychological and psychiatric needs

Visions uses effective techniques and current modalities to treat troubled teens.

1st Step Program – helps families and teens reintegrate into everyday life after long term treatment. Parents are walked through the reality of their teen’s new lifestyle.

  • 8 Weeks of Clinical Support
  • 2 to 3 Nights Per Week
  • Includes 1 Individual Session

Intensive Outpatient Program – assists in communication amongst the family, addressing existing co-occurring psychiatric and/or therapeutic needs and developing support within the community.

  • 1 Year of Clinical Support
  • Individual Sessions
  • Family Sessions

Visions’ founding clinicians have stayed with the program while several dynamic team members have been added for continued growth of the adolescent outpatient counseling. Each teen is assigned a Counselor and Licensed Therapist to work with throughout the program. A Program Director supervises all counseling services.

Other consultants called upon as needed:

  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologists
  • Medical Doctors
  • Registered Dietician
  • Art Therapist
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Admission into the adolescent outpatient counseling involves several comprehensive assessments. When required, other sources used include family, previous treatment professionals, teachers, and community experts.

Psychosocial Assessment – reviews the education, social functioning, drug, alcohol, medical, family, and developmental history.

Substance Abuse Assessment – examines psychoactive use and evaluates the teen’s treatment and recovery belief and determines any indication of treatment resistance.

Psychiatric Assessment – performed by the Psychiatric Director to ensure the initial psychiatric evaluation is properly administered and psychiatric services are provided.

Treatment Planning – utilizes information collected during the assessment process to identify issues to be addressed in the treatment programs and desired goals.

Visions’ advocates for family involvement in treatment. It is proven that the best outcome for treatment relies on the participation of the family in the therapeutic process. Mental Health and Substance Abuse affects the entire family with nearly 100 percent of patients sharing the same feelings prior to and during treatment.

  • Fear
  • Helplessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Anger

The adolescent outpatient counseling program includes a minimum of 5 weekly hours of family-focused therapy.

Multi-Family Group – led by a Family Therapist every Saturday. Issues common to all families are addressed such as communication, handling conflicts, and maintaining boundaries. The families are also provided with feedback and support from other family members sharing similar experiences.

Individual Family Sessions – addresses conflicts that the family may feel uncomfortable bringing up in group sessions. Individual patient and family members meet with a Family Therapist to assess needs in completing treatment goals.

Family Education – provides adolescent and families with information on the progression and stages of family illnesses. Parents discuss common issues each family deals with. The goal is to teach the teen and family members an understanding of typical roles and family rules that people act out in problem families.

Discharge & Aftercare

The Discharge Plan and Continuing Care Plan are developed upon admission into the adolescent outpatient counseling program by the Counselor with input from both the patient and the treatment team. The plan addresses continuing care needs that may include therapeutic schools, individual and family therapy, medication management, and/or outpatient programs.  

Visions Outpatient works out of network with insurance. We will provide the following services to our outpatient families: benefit verification, pre-authorization, utilization review, billing and collections.

The Fourth Dimension

Completion of the adolescent outpatient counseling allows for membership in the Visions Alumni Program. Teens attend up to two aftercare groups a week on an on-going basis. Individual sessions are available on a fee for service basis. The Visions Alumni Coordinator makes support calls for crisis intervention or relapse prevention. The alumni group holds annual events for adolescent and family members.

  • Winter Ski/Snowboard Trip
  • Alumni Family Weekend
  • Alumni vs. Staff Softball Game
  • Knott’s Scary Farm Night
  • Magic Mountain

Visions Residential is a private pay program and full payment is required from the family. Our team will assist with insurance benefit verification and utilization review.

Visions Treatment Centers are a popular choice for families around the world. All personnel are trained in adolescent outpatient counseling for troubled teens.

Please click below or call us at 866-889-3665 to schedule your consultation.

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Guest Post: The Ins and Outs of Drug Testing

A drug testing program

Laboratory (Photo credit: tk-link)

can be an important part of a company, school or drug rehabilitation center’s policy. Some parents have even taken it upon themselves to initiate drug testing in their own homes in the interest of keeping their children drug free.

And while most drug testing programs use the urine drug testing method, there are other ways of testing for substance abuse. We will look at the three most common drug testing methods and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Instant drug tests and lab drug tests


All drug testing falls into one of these two categories.


Instant tests, as the name implies, can be done on the spot and give you instant results in just a few simple steps.


For laboratory testing, you of course have to go to a laboratory where the tests are performed with sophisticated equipment. Samples can be collected either at the laboratory or collected off site and taken to the lab for testing.


Drug testing programs in business or institutional environments will usually include a two step process that includes both instant and laboratory tests. An instant test will be performed initially and if that returns a positive result, a follow up test on the sample will be performed at a laboratory. These lab tests are important because instant test results aren’t admissible in court. If the test result is to be used for a legal matter, such as termination of employment, for example, the sample must be laboratory tested for confirmation purposes.


The obvious advantage of instant drug testing is that it gives you instant results. The instant drug testing kits are also inexpensive compared to booking laboratory time for drug testing. With many kits, it’s also possible to test for multiple drugs at the same time. Some of them can even test for over a dozen drugs that include all the common street drugs, plus prescription drugs.


As for disadvantages, aside from the fact that the results are not admissible in court, another knock on instant drug tests is that they do give the occasional false positive reading. Even worse, they also give the occasional false negative reading.


On the laboratory side, the advantages are that the testing is handled by professionals and the results can be used in court, as they confirm the presence of drugs. The expense, plus the time it takes to get results, which ranges from hours to weeks, are disadvantages to laboratory testing.


By combining instant drug testing and laboratory testing, costs can be kept down by primarily using the instant tests and only sending the samples that give a positive result away for laboratory confirmation.


Different Types of drug testing


Although you may occasionally see blood and sweat referenced in terms of drug testing, and both those bodily fluids can be used, the three most common ways of drug testing are by using samples of urine, saliva or hair.


It is possible to use an instant testing kit when using urine or saliva to drug test. With these kits, you can collect a sample anywhere (you’ll need a private place for urine, obviously) and test the substances right on the spot. Or, you can collect the samples and have them sent away to a laboratory for testing.


Hair testing cannot be done instantly. Hair samples can be collected any place, but the actual testing will have to be done at a laboratory.




As far as the most common way to drug test, urine reigns supreme. It’s used in the majority of employment testing, pre-employment screening, military and sports drug testing.


Depending on the type of drug and other factors like a person’s body composition, urine tests can detect drugs in a person’s system from a few hours after they’ve ingested them until about a week afterward, maybe a bit longer.


The instant urine drug tests require a person to give a sample of a certain size and then seeing how that urine reacts with specific chemicals meant to detect drug metabolites.


Tests come in different formats like testing strips, where you dip the strip into the urine, or testing cassettes where you have to transfer some of the urine onto the cassette. A popular instant urine test for obvious reasons is the all-on-one cups where you get the sample donor to fill a cup and you put a lid on the cup and push a button to enact the test, never needing to actually interact with the liquid.


Laboratory urine tests will involve doing an instant drug test (known as immunoassay tests) and if the results are positive, running a more sophisticated (and expensive) test that usually involve gas chromatography–mass spectrometry or a similar type of test.


Obviously the advantages are that this type of testing can be done quickly and relatively inexpensively, plus, because it’s the most common type of drug testing, most people are familiar with it already.


The disadvantages of urine testing are that the sample collection can’t quite be done anywhere. The collection process is also a bit invasive. In some organizations like the military, sample collection must be watched.


And urine tests can be cheated. Some common forms of cheating include:


  • swapping in someone else’s clean urine,
  • drinking excessive amounts of water or other liquids to dilute the sample, and
  • adding a foreign substance (salt, vinegar, bleach etc.) to the sample.


Fortunately, these types of cheating can be easily thwarted. Temperature strips can detect when urine isn’t body temperature, which a fresh sample would be. Also, observation of the sample collection prevents swapping. Many tests can detect watered down samples and properly trained testing technicians will be able to spot a diluted sample, not to mention that most drugs aren’t water soluble so this won’t help people cheat in a lot of cases anyway. Many modern instant tests are also equipped to detect adulterated samples, as well as the aforementioned properly trained drug testing technicians. Laboratories will have safeguards in place to detect cheating.




Often referred to as oral fluid tests, they involve taking a swab of fluid from the mouth of the sample donor. The results are available instantly and these tests can detect drug use from about an hour after usage to a few days after usage depending on the type of drug.


The relatively short period of detection is one of their disadvantages.


However, a clear advantage is that the collection process for saliva testing can be done anywhere and can be observed without privacy concerns.


As far as cheating, it has been noted that gum and cigarettes can interfere with the results of these tests, so precautions have to be taken to ensure no gum is chewed or cigarettes smoked immediately prior to the test.




Hair testing involves cutting several dozen strands of hair from a person’s head or body and sending them to a laboratory for testing (the sample collection can also be done in some labs). Short hair is perfectly fine to use and, as mentioned, body hair can also be used. And while cutting off a person’s hair is obviously somewhat invasive, the hair is cut from the back of the head from a few different spots so as to not be obvious.


In the lab, the hair will be liquified and then split into its various components to check for drug metabolites. A huge advantage for hair testing is that it can check for drug use as far back as three months prior to the date of the test. And, not only can it detect the type of drug used, but also how frequently it was used.


Another huge advantage is that it is impossible to cheat. The internet is full of “advice” for people on how to cheat a hair drug test, but no shampoo, dye or bleach can change the molecular makeup of the hair, which is what the tests look at.


However, aside from the aforementioned invasiveness, hair testing has other disadvantages. It’s more expensive than either urine or saliva testing, there is no instant option and drug metabolites won’t show up in hair until about a week after usage. So, for example, if a person used cocaine on Tuesday and a hair sample was taken from them the following Thursday, the cocaine usage from two days beforehand would not be detected.


Whether used in a professional environment or in the home, drug testing can help keep employees, students, children, athletes and others free from the harmful effects of drugs. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and which one is best for any given situation will depend on cost and other factors.


About Our Guest Blogger: Lena Butler

Lena Butler is a health blogger and customer service representative for TestCountry, a San Diego based point of service diagnostic test service provider that offers a wide range of laboratory and instant drug and general health testing kits. You can follow Test Country on Twitter and on Facebook. Follow Lena on Twitter as well!