County offering free drug testing for teens

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SAN DIEGO –Parents who suspect that their children are abusing illegal or prescription drugs can find out for sure by having them tested at one of 11 teen treatment centers around the county.

A recent study indicates 33 percent of San Diego County teens have used alcohol, 24 percent have used marijuana and nearly 14 percent have used a prescription drug without a prescription within the last 30 days.

kswb-photo-marijuana-20120419“I think what people don’t realize is how easy it is for them to obtain drugs.  It’s going to school…everybody’s got them…somebody’s selling them,” said Jeanne McAlister, the founder of McAlister Institute, which includes five teen recovery centers among the 11 centers the county is using to offer free drug testing for kids 12 to 17.

“Somebody told me ‘My child won’t trust me if I bring them in to get drug tested.’  I said it’s either that or they’re going to use drugs.  Which do you choose?  It’s not your job as a parent to be well-liked,” McAlister said.

The free tests detect up to ten drugs.

Patrick Foley, a program manager and counselor, says alcohol and pot are often the drugs of choice for kids — but heroin use is also on the rise.

“This mother was super-overwhelmed and said, ‘I feel like my daughter’s been lying to me about her drug use.  Can I bring her in today?’  I said, ‘Sure.’  Three things she was positive for: meth, heroin and a barbituate…likely a prescription medication,” said Foley.

The goal is also to get kids to open up about their abuse, even as they deal with tremendous peer pressure.

“It’s hard to say no when all your peers are using drugs.  To give the child something they can tell their friends – ‘No, I can’t use because my parents drug test me regularly.’  They need that kind of support,” said McAlister.

If you suspect your child might be using drugs, you can call 211 to find the nearest Teen Recovery Center.  You can also call the County Access and Crisis Line at 888-724-7240, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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