Why be Afraid of Drug and Alcohol Testing our Youth?

Brian HoeflingerNews1 Comment


Why are so many people offended by the thought of drug and alcohol testing our youth? If your child is not doing it, then there should be nothing for you to worry about. But many parents are actively against the notion of drug and alcohol testing for teenagers. Many parents cite the Fourth amendment and say it’s a violation of our underage children’s rights. When did the rights of our children supersede the rights of adults to be parents? Even more so, when did the rights of teenagers supersede that of the law? It is illegal to drink alcohol before the age of 21 and it is also illegal to use recreational drugs in all states before the age of 21. Then why are we providing our kids with the power to go ahead and do these things? Alcohol and drug testing in our schools and at school-related functions is necessary and would greatly curb these illicit activities in our youth. If being caught resulted in a direct consequence then teens would think twice and consider not doing it.

As it stands now, our underage teens are clearly in control and constantly push the limits because they are allowed to do so with little repercussion. We have many adults whose only concern is that the kid’s freedoms to do what they want will be taken away. That attitude is where much of the problem lies. As a parent, why would you want your underage child to drink alcohol, smoke pot or take drugs? Is there any reasonable positive benefit to any of these activities that we should know? None are good for your health. None promote a healthy life stye. None are legal activities for minors. None are good for brain development. The list goes on. On the other hand, we do know for fact that alcohol and drugs are often linked with crime, risk taking, lying and violent behavior, injury and/or death. I think one can safely say that the risks greatly outweigh the benefit when it comes to drugs, alcohol and our youth. Yet it continues…! Which makes me wonder, are there people out there who actually think alcohol and drugs are beneficial for our teens? The only logical conclusion that can be drawn about parents who do not want their teenagers to be drug and alcohol tested would be that they either know their kids are doing it and condone the behavior or that they do not want to know if their child is doing it and wish to remain ignorant to the possibility.

Lastly, there are parents who are just oblivious to the whole concept of teens, alcohol and drugs. What other logical reasons could there be? Parents need to wake up before it is too late. My wife and I have already received our wake-up call with the death of our son Brian who died as a result of a drunk driving accident. He was the drunk driver. From this experience, we have learned that kids are drinking alcohol and smoking pot and they are not letting their parents know. Don’t think you are above your child not telling you that they are drinking alcohol, smoking pot or taking drugs. They don’t want you to know and why would they, since it is illegal. Then I ask you, what harm would random testing for alcohol or drugs cause for your kids? Or a better way to look at it would be, what benefit would your teenager get from random testing? It certainly would help deter them from using it because random testing would force teens to consider the possibility of getting caught and being reported to their parents as well as to the school. It also would give them a better reason to say No in front of their friends. Alcohol and drug testing provides a legitimate excuse for teens to say No! And in the end, random testing will undoubtedly save lives. Again, if your teen is not doing these things, then they have nothing to fear. Yet many parents remain solely focused on the individual’s rights. When you go to an airport, you are screened by security and often searched and patted down.

This does not seem to stop anyone from flying. When you go to a concert and your bag or purse is violated, this does not seem to deter people, particularly teens from wanting to go to concerts. People give up their rights every day for things our society deems necessary. Alcohol and drugs in our youth should be no different. These activities are illegal and yet a majority of teenagers blatantly disregard the law and partake in them. For the parents against testing our youth, I ask you for instance, where is my right as a person to not have a drunk teenager disrupting a school event such as a football or basketball game? Does the right of the drunk teenager who has drank alcohol illegally supersede my right as a person to watch the game in peace? And what parent thinks it’s ok for a teenager to come to school or a school activity drunk, high or both? Yes, many parents did these activities when they were young and did fine. Does that then make it right for kids today to do the same? How can things ever change for the better with that type of mentality? And when I say change things for the better, I’m referring to a future without addiction and the senseless violence, injuries and deaths that are directly associated with alcohol and drugs. These injuries and deaths are preventable with change in a forward direction. Who can argue that point? When I was a surgical resident in 1993, there were no restrictions on how many hours a resident doctor could work in a week. O

ne week, I logged 147 hours out of a possible 168 hours in the week. I slept about 8 hours that entire week. And yet I cared for patients, sometimes alone in the middle of the night. Things have changed since 1993 and we now have an 80 hour work week for residents. Why did it change? Because of patient safety and resident abuse. At some point, people spoke out against this practice and things changed. Change for the better to protect innocent patients from overworked doctors who may have made unintentional mistakes due to lack of sleep. Just because I was trained in this fashion 20 years ago doesn’t make it right today. I use this example to exploit the need for change regarding our youth. Innocent teenagers are being injured and dying every day as a result of alcohol and drugs. We need to stop this practice unless of course you are in favor of the appalling statistics associated with teen injury and death as a direct result of alcohol and drugs. It’s time for parents, schools, law enforcement, liquor stores, bars and our society in general to step in and protect our youth from themselves. They are minors and need guidance. They need firm rules with strict consequences so that they clearly understand it is illegal to use alcohol and drugs at their young age. The law states that drinking alcohol is illegal before the age of 21. Why was the age of 21 picked? Because extensive research and statistics have shown that injury and death due to alcohol intoxication sharply decreases after the age of 20. Hence the legal drinking age of 21. We as parents need to reinforce this to our underage children.

But a parent’s influence can only go so far. Again, kids do not want their parents to know they are drinking and smoking pot. They will hide it and keep it a secret at all costs. Thus a parent’s ability to stop this behavior only goes so far. Schools, liquor stores, bar owners, hosting parents and the media to name a few all need to be involved to help take these choices away. Schools need to alcohol and drug test as well as educate students to the dangers of these substances. Liquor stores and bars need to consistently check ID’s and not sell alcohol to minors. Stronger social host laws need to be publicly advocated in the media and set into law. Parents need to keep talking to their children, set a good example for them and enforce the rules at home. All of these measures are needed to change things from a past that doesn’t work for our teens to a new healthier future for our children. I would ask all of you to look at drug and alcohol testing for our youth as a positive preventive measure as opposed to a negative invasion of privacy.

Drug and alcohol testing is in our teens best interest to protect them from what they often lack, a sense of wisdom, foresight and good judgment. Most teens are not mature enough to foresee the immediate and long term effects of these substances. We as adults, parents and institutions need to help our youth make better decisions by cracking down on underage alcohol and drug use. In essence, we need to take back control of our youth who so often feel that they are already adults. They want to partake in adult activities which too often results in risk taking behavior and resultant tragedy. If you have any doubt in your mind that a teenage alcohol-related tragedy cannot happen to you, then please read my book titled, “The Night He Died: The Harsh Reality of Teenage Drinking” which can be found on Amazon or through our website: www.brianmatters.com. Tragedy is not discriminative and anyone is susceptible if your teen drinks alcohol. Please strongly consider what I have written with an open mind. It could be your last reminder before something which could have been prevented happens to your family. I would ask Everyone who reads this post to Please Share it with your friends. The only way we will ever gain control of the alcohol and drug problem in our youth is to hold them accountable for their own actions. Alcohol and drug testing is a first positive step in this process. Let’s not let the few people who oppose this idea stop forward progress for everyone!

Brian F. Hoeflinger, M.D.

One Comment on ““Why be Afraid of Drug and Alcohol Testing our Youth?”

  1. Janet Skidmore

    Brian, first of all, I would like to express my deepest sympathies in the death of your son, Brian. I have been following your story since his tragic death.
    I worked in the Neuro Unit at St. V’s for 25 years and know you from there. I no longer work at St. V’s. I currently have a second job doing dictation at Arrowhead Behavioral so I am familiar with the current chemical dependency issues we face today.
    My children are all grown now and this is no longer a problem for me but I know that the use of alcohol and drugs is an ever growing problem. When my kids were teenagers, I used to tell them not to use drugs and alcohol, but I also didn’t trust them. Instead of just forbidding it, I would tell them to make sure they had a designated driver, because I felt it was inevitable that they would drink. It worked for me, not because they listened to me, but because we were lucky. I wanted to let you know that I think random alcohol and drug testing for teens is a GREAT idea! As you said, the kids are in control instead of the parents. The kids whine and complain if they don’t get to go somewhere or do something. They tell their parents to “Just trust me, mom/dad.” Kids manipulate their parents to make decisions that they know probably aren’t a good idea. I know that happened to me. I was weak as a parent. I wish we would have had random drug and alcohol testing when my kids were younger. In fact, I wish I would have had a breathalyzer machine to test my kids when they came home at night.
    Thank you for all you are doing to help prevent this from happening to someone else. You really make not only teenagers, but parents think about the consequences of their decisions and you have probably already save lives.

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