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March 5, 2006 - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)

Drug Wars Being Fought At Home

Parents Test Their Teens More Often

By Raquel Rutledge

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Desperate parents dissatisfied with old-school ways of trying to tell whether their kids are doing drugs - rifling through their drawers, smelling their breath, searching their eyes - are now instead demanding proof.

They're dragging their teens to drug testing labs and buying home testing kits by the case over the Internet.

"I tell my daughter if you want to go out tonight you're going to pee in a cup first," said Suzanne Fugarino, whose 17-year-old daughter was expelled from Germantown High School last fall after bringing a crack pipe to school.

Schools, too, are getting on board, hanging banners and sending home brochures backing, a Web-based company that promotes home drug tests for children.

Although random drug testing in schools -- heavily promoted by the White House and done in numerous districts in Wisconsin -- has drawn some fire from the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others, parental testing of teens has gotten far less attention.

And the practice is quietly exploding.

Internet companies and drug testing labs report huge upswings in teen testing and sales of home drug screening kits.

"(Business) has been awesome," said Debra Auer, co-owner of Express Drug Screening on Mayfair Road.

Sales of home testing kits and visits to the lab by teen-toting parents have tripled in the last four years, Auer said. says its sales have quadrupled in the last five years, and another local testing lab, Noble Diagnostics, says sales of home kits have jumped 30% in the last nine months or so.

"From a parent's perspective, it's the most empowering thing in the world," said Kim Hildreth, a Dallas mother who tests her own children and sells home testing kits online at

"You're lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling, worried to death all the time," Hildreth said. "You catch them in little fibs. You don't know if they're where they say they are. You worry. There's no reason for that."

Hildreth and other proponents call drug testing a powerful deterrent and say it gives teens a socially acceptable reason to reject drug use.

"We taught them to 'Just Say No,' but we never told them what to say next," said Mason Duchatschek, owner of

Teens who are tested can tell their friends that their parents test them and that they will lose cell phone, car or other privileges, and their peers understand that, Duchatschek said.

Duchatschek is working with schools across the country, including the Cudahy School District, to get them to endorse his program of parental testing instead of adopting controversial random testing programs as many other schools have done.

"It's the parents who are the ultimate guardians of their children, who are the ones in my belief who should be aware of what's going on and getting help for the child," said Gail Schacht, president of the Cudahy School Board. "This throws it in their ballpark."

Schacht said the district plans to hang banners in the gymnasiums for parents to see and also send home brochures promoting home drug testing.

Cudahy's plans come amid a string of six unrelated student arrests for drug use.

Home drug tests typically cost $6 to $15 for one test that can detect between five and 10 different drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates and benzodiazepines. Parents dip the test into a cup of urine and results appear within minutes.

Matt Muir, a 17-year-old high school senior from Michigan, objects to his mother's recent purchase of home drug tests. Muir says his occasional marijuana use causes no problems in his life and that his mother shouldn't worry.

His grades are fine, he said. He's already been accepted into three good universities and he'll soon be living on his own. He doesn't smoke every day and never before school, and he's not turning to other "harder" drugs, he said.

When his mother tried to force him to urinate in a cup while she stood in the bathroom facing the wall, he decided he would rather admit to his drug use than go through the embarrassment.

"I've given a lot of thought to what she's supposed to do," Muir said. "It's really tough. I guess look the other way, but not approve of it. It strikes me that parents that are OK with it are not good people."

Some groups say home drug testing can harm relationships with children.

The Drug Policy Alliance, a national non-profit agency that promotes an overhaul of the nation's approach to drug problems, says parental testing tears at the bond between children and adults.

"It can have consequences of breaking down communication, of creating rebellion, breaking down relationships of trust," said Jennifer Kern, a research associate with the office of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Drug testing of teens should be done by medical professionals who can better interpret test results and refer parents to appropriate resources if necessary, Kern said.

Rachael Fugarino, the Germantown teen busted for bringing a crack pipe to school, said she was angry when her mom started screening her for drugs but that eventually it was helpful.

"At first I tried to get other people's pee to try to pass the test," she said. "Then I realized if I opened up and communicated it helped. It helped to have her know what I was doing."

Fugarino said drugs, especially crack cocaine, nearly destroyed her. She said she tried any and every drug and would do anything to get money for drugs. She stole and forged checks, sold her mom's jewelry and borrowed money from anybody who would give it to her.

She's been clean for about six months and is working toward her GED.

The home drug tests now serve as a way for Fugarino to prove she's clean and earn back her mom's trust, she said.

And when her mom and stepfather apologize -- as they often do -- for the things they've done and still do to prevent her drug use, "I tell them, 'You don't need to apologize. I know you're just doing it to help me,' " Fugarino said. "And I'm glad that they did."

For Suzanne Fugarino, the tests offer an end to secretly digging in her daughter's purse when her daughter is in the shower, as she used to do. An end to the accusations and guesswork and, she desperately hopes, an end to all the lies.

"They will tell you anything. 'I'm sorry. I will never do this again,' " she said of teens on drugs. "They know what you want to hear and you want to believe them. But the moment they're free and out, they're right back at it.

"At least now she can't lie to me no longer."

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