Drug test kits a good idea

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register 

WHEELING, W.Va. — Has the drug abuse crisis in West Virginia gotten that bad? That we’re giving away drug test kits parents can use on their children?

It has.

Parents in Kanawha, Cabell and Putnam counties will be able to obtain the kits, beginning next week, at multiple locations. They are being handed out through a pilot program.

Using saliva from the test subject, the kits will confirm use of a variety of drugs ranging from marijuana to heroin. Testing takes just a few minutes.

Though the idea may seem a bit jarring at first glance – most youngsters do not abuse drugs and many would be offended highly if a parent demanded they undergo a test – it is nothing new. For generations, some teenagers returning home from a night out with friends have been greeted with, “Glad you’re home. Let me smell your breath.”

But while it may be possible to tell whether a teen has been drinking that way, dozens of very dangerous drugs leave no trace on the breath. The testing kits, then, really are no more than recognition that time-honored methods of dealing with alcohol use among minors need to be augmented in light of the serious drug abuse crisis in West Virginia.

But as is the case with the old breath test, the drug kits may not have to be used. Their very presence in homes may be enough to convince some teens to steer clear of drug abuse. Promoters of the testing program hope so, anyway.

Finding out if that is the case – and about other ramifications of the testing kit program – should be a top priority for local and state officials involved in Kanawha, Cabell and Putnam counties. Care certainly will have to be exercised to ensure the initiative is not evaluated prematurely and/or with a sample that is too small to draw generalized conclusions.

That said, the sooner the program’s effectiveness can be checked, the better. If it helps keep some teens from abusing drugs, it ought to be considered for our area, too.

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