Teen drug use is on the rise, especially in high-risk urban areas. According to a new study, however, teens often do not voluntarily disclose illicit drug use, even when they know they will undergo a drug test. The study, “Just Say ‘I Don’t’: Lack of Concordance Between Teen Self-Report and Biological Measures of Illicit Drug Use,” is published in the November print issue of Pediatrics (published online Oct. 25).
Researchers confidentially surveyed more than 400 high-risk urban teens and their parents in one of the first large, nonclinical biological testing studies. After asking about drug use in a questionnaire, researchers tested teens’ hair samples. Teens were 52 percent more likely to test positive for cocaine in their hair samples than they were to report using cocaine on the questionnaires. Like their teens, parents significantly underreported their own cocaine use. Parents were 6.5 times more likely to test positive for cocaine use in a hair sample, and 5.5 times more likely to test positive for opiates, than they were to report using these drugs in the questionnaire. Parents also underidentified their teen’s drug use, leading researchers to believe that methods of testing other than self- or parent-report should be considered when estimating teen drug-use prevalence.