What are the Pros and Cons to Drug Testing a Loved One?

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Open hand

Helping someone heal from addiction is one of the most important jobs you will have. With so many ups and downs, mood swings and personality changes, it’s normal for both the addict and family members to feel depressed. It’s also understandable that you may feel on edge all of the time. Will your loved one be able to remain sober? What if they are lying? What happens if they relapse?

With so much uncertainty in early recovery, some families feel that it will ease their mind to have their loved one drug tested. This way, they can have the reassurance that their family member is sticking to their recovery goals. But, is drug testing really the best choice? Can it do more harm than good?

Drug Testing Can Work, But Not Always

Each family is unique, so we can’t say that drug testing is either good or bad. For some families, it does work. Knowing that drug testing is a possibility can be motivating. On the other hand, drug testing can create more strife in the family. The recovering addict might feel that their loved ones don’t trust them or that their privacy is being invaded.

Before making a decision for the recovering addict in your life, consider the pros and cons to random drug testing.

Pros of Drug Testing

  • Peace of mind. If the test comes back clean, it’s peace of mind that your loved one is following their recovery plan and that your efforts are paying off. This can create a more positive environment and loving relationship.

  • Improved trust. Recovering addicts want to be trusted again, but it’s understandable that the people around them might not be ready to. Having physical proof that your loved one is telling the truth can strengthen and build trust.

  • Private and confidential. If you choose to do a home drug test, the process is private. If the test comes back positive, you can address the next steps to getting help. For example, The River Source allows patients who have completed 90 days of inpatient treatment to return to our facility for additional treatment at no extra cost if they relapse in the first year.

  • Opportunities for rewards. If the test is negative, use this as a time to celebrate. Something simple like a dinner out is a great way to strengthen family ties and reward good behavior.

Cons to Drug Testing

  • Feeling inadequate. Understandably, not all recovering addicts agree with drug testing. Feeling untrusted or demeaned can lead to a more hostile home environment.

  • False results. At home drug testing kits are not as reliable as ones done in a medical laboratory. It’s possible that your loved one could tamper with the results. It’s also possible that things such as vitamin supplements or specific foods can alter the results.

  • Confirm fears. You may not be ready to see a test come back positive. However, it’s important to have a plan of action and a support system in place in the event a test comes back positive.

At The River Source, we recommend working with a counselor if you do choose to drug test. A counselor will serve as a mediator so that your loved one knows their guidelines and expectations. Families can also receive support on what to do if the test has positive results.