Would you ever make your child pee into a cup and then test for drugs?
Lisa Chapman-Rosa says there's too much at stake not to know for sure.
"If you have a suspicion, I think you should test them," said the Richland mother of two and owner of Tri-Cities Mobile Drug & Alcohol Testing.
She contends the legalization of marijuana by Washington voters just more than a year ago is making it easier than ever for minors to get their hands on the drug, and more parents are asking about her company's services.
But not everyone agrees with her approach.
"It could go a long way in harming a relationship," said Susie Wells, a nurse at Chiawana and New Horizons high schools in Pasco.
School, health care and law enforcement officials said there could be a benefit to testing kids suspected of drug use. Or, in some cases, just knowing they could be tested is a deterrent.
But some cautioned that the approach could be too simplistic, leading parents to ignore root problems with their children.
"You want to instill trust in your child," said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg. "Trust works both ways in a relationship."
Tests serve as deterrent
Chapman-Rosa's company has provided drug testing for companies in the region for more than 13 years. Employees come to her offices to be tested or businesses arrange for on-site tests.
The company also performs drug testing for child custody and divorce cases and has donated testing services to a local charity serving recovering addicts.
The growing presence of drugs in children's lives and at increasingly young ages has alarmed Chapman-Rosa and her employees, who are trained and certified by the federal Department of Transportation to collect drug and alcohol tests and perform analysis.
That's why she's decided to offer almost 300 drug tests valued at about $10,000 to Tri-City families concerned that one of their children may be using drugs.
"This is a tool to help deter them from saying yes (to drugs)," Chapman-Rosa said.
Parents can either bring their child to the company's offices in north Richland to be tested or receive a take-home test.
The confidential tests generally cost about $36 and are analyzed at the company's facility. Parents aren't required to fill out any additional paperwork if a child tests positive. Results aren't shared with law enforcement.
The take-home tests, which are plastic cups and test strips, screen urine for enzymes left behind by various substances.
Chapman-Rosa said the most popular test checks for amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine, opioids and THC, the active chemical in marijuana.
The take-home test has safeguards, such as registering temperature or anything added to the sample in an effort to tamper with the results.
Such drug tests aren't unique: many drugstores sell over-the-counter tests for $18 or more, though Chapman-Rosa said the tests she offers are more accurate.
Hospitals, government agencies and other companies in the region also provide drug-testing services, whether it's for work place safety or to treat addiction.
Chapman-Rosa's sister Shannon Davari works for her, and she routinely kept a test kit at home when her daughter was younger.
She said her now-adult daughter told her that knowing the kit was at home was a strong deterrent to taking drugs during her teenage years.
"It's better to stop it before it begins," Davari said.
Another Richland woman said her concerns with her then-teenage sons led her to have them tested for drugs about six years ago.
Kathy, who asked that her last name not be used to protect her family's privacy, searched for drug-testing services after her two boys became disrespectful, broke curfews and hung out with other kids she didn't entirely trust.
She had the boys tested at Chapman-Rosa's business and bought a couple of testing kits to keep at home.
None of the tests came back positive, but she's still glad she did it, and her boys, who were angry at the time, feel the same way, she said.
"At this point, when we talk about it, they feel they would do the same thing," she said.
Another client said she and her two sons were in counseling when she decided to get them tested at Chapman-Rosa's business.
The Benton City mother said the boys' grades had slipped to D's and F's, and they missed curfew several times and were hanging with a "bad crowd."
She continued to test them about once a month throughout their high school years.
The tests came back positive for THC once or twice, but Rachel, who only wanted her first name used, said the threat of being tested helped give her control of her boys and thinks drug testing can help other parents too.
"I think if the word was out there, more parents would take advantage of it," she said.
Changes in law add to problem
Substance abuse violations, particularly when it comes to alcohol-related offenses, are trending downward in the Mid-Columbia, according to arrest statistics from the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center.
The majority of the youth brought in are experimenting and one-time offenders, said Dave Wheeler, the center's intervention services manager. The students receive diversion, which is a suspended sentence, in exchange for meeting certain conditions, such as probation and treatment, and often don't return.
"They're not chemically-dependent users," he said.
Kennewick police aren't seeing an uptick in minors using most drugs either, Hohenberg said.
The police department gets requests from parents to have an officer sit down and talk with their child about the dangers of drugs and alcohol but there are only about six to 12 of those requests a year.
Pot legalization has changed the playing field, though.
Possession of up to 1 ounce of unprocessed marijuana is no longer a criminal offense under state law for people 21 and older, though federal law still prohibits the production, possession and sale of marijuana.
"It does seem like we're dealing with more kids who have it available in the home," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said he sees value in what Chapman-Rosa's company is offering.
"I think it's another tool in a parent's tool bag," he said.
Hohenberg agreed that Kennewick officers are arresting more 18- to 21-year-olds on marijuana-related charges.
Authorities also are seeing more minors abusing prescription drugs, such as opioids such as hydrocodone and stimulants such as Adderall.
The number of arrests has grown from 20 to 30 annually to almost 60 so far in 2013.
More than half of high school seniors don't see marijuana use as harmful and many underage students reported using marijuana at least once in the past year if not more often, according to a survey from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
President Obama's administration has criticized Washington's legalization of pot, with one official calling it "a very large social experiment," the Associated Press reported. Officials said marijuana use among school-age children could hinder brain development and put them at risk of addiction.
"Well, this isn't a recipe for raising a healthy generation of young people who are prepared to meet American's challenges," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and a former Seattle police chief.
Drugs not only cause of behavior changes
But drugs and alcohol may not be the only things influencing a kid's behavior, said Pasco school nurse Wells.
A parent may think just knowing whether their child is on drugs is all they need to know and then they'll know what to do, she said.
But they also need to have a plan to get their child some help well in advance of seeing test results, regardless of the outcome.
"I would hate for them to say, 'Oh, it's not drugs. There must not be a problem,' " she said, noting they could be suffering from depression or have a hormonal imbalance.
Parents should have their child seen by their doctor first if there's a change in behavior or energy levels, to rule out any health-related cause, Wells said.
A doctor also will be able to provide guidance to parents on next steps, such as recommending a drug test, meeting with a therapist or suggesting family counseling services.
"There's a lot that goes on in teenagers' lives," she said. "Teenagers act like teenagers for a lot of good reasons."
Hohenberg said a parent must decide if drug testing is right for their situation. Parents should not delude themselves if their child is clearly struggling with addiction, he said.
But taking a kid in to be tested could violate a child's trust, making it difficult to help them now and in the future.
"I would want some other reasonable proof before I took them to get tested," he said, such as finding drug paraphernalia in the home or definitive signs of insobriety.
Chapman-Rosa said it's critical to be open with your children and talk early with them about the dangers of drugs.
However, if there are signs that a child may not be entirely truthful or refuse to talk about it, a drug test may help parents know what's going on.
"We'd rather be a preventative than be a court-ordered thing," Davari said. "If I'm not correct, then yay for my child, let's go out to dinner to celebrate."
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