The Dominion Post 30 September 2009
A new kit that allows parents to drug-test their children using hair has drawn a barrage of criticism from welfare organisations.
A $225 one-use kit requires parents to cut between 90 and 120 strands of hair – about the thickness of a pencil – at scalp level from their children. The sample must be between 4 centimetres and 4.5cm long so there is enough to determine the frequency of drug use in the past 90 days.
It is packaged at home by parents and sent to a lab, where it is tested for seven illegal drugs: marijuana, cocaine, opiates such as codeine and morphine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and PCP (Phencyclidine). A drug history report of the child is available to parents via a secure website within two days of the lab receiving the sample.
Health Ministry statistics from 2007 show that one in five 13 to 17-year-olds had used cannabis in the previous 12 months. Children’s Commissioner John Angus said it was right that parents were concerned about possible drug use by their children. “However, if they are going to help them with drug issues, then they need to do that in the context of having an honest relationship with them. I don’t think this would be helped by surreptitiously doing a drug test.”