A home drug test kit went on sale today aimed at giving parents a way to find out whether their children are using drugs.
Called DrugCheck5, the kit is being marketed in this country by "drug prevention company" Prove It.
Managing director Nicky Doherty said the kit worked on a urine test and took five minutes to give indications on marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine and methamphetamine, and opiates heroin and morphine.
Such testing was "huge" in the United States, she said.
The kit was mainly being targeted at parents of 13 to 17-year-olds.
If a young person refused to undertake the test it was an indication a parent seriously needed to take advice, Ms Doherty said.
Commissioner for Children Roger McClay said he would welcome the kits if they were a way to help prevent drugs ruining young people's lives.
The rights and dignity of young people had to be respected, and parents should not be invasive or sneaky, he said.
But respect for young people had to be balanced against the desire and responsibilties of parents to keep their children safe.
"Maybe if children and young people know their parents are concerned and may check, it maybe a deterrent," Mr McClay said.
Drugs were high on the list of concerns, even among sixth and seventh formers themselves, that were discussed with him as he travelled around the country.
Ms Doherty said she considered bringing in the kits 18 months ago but at that time thought resistance to the idea would have been too strong.
Now, with the upsurge in methamphetamine use since then and the crime associated with it, she believed the kits would meet with greater acceptance.
A qualified nurse who was now a fulltime mum, Ms Doherty said she had friends and family who had lost friends and family to drug use.
While the sale of the kits was a business, "firstly it's more of a passion", she said.
Education and lobby group the Parents Centre said today it feared the drug testing kit could destroy relationships between parents and teenagers.
In a statement Parents Centre said the test failed to address the real need of parents to develop strong channels of communication with their children.
" Resorting to drug testing is the best way to destroy a relationship with a teenager. What happens after the test, whether positive or negative? What happens to the relationship if a false positive is produced by the test?" the organisation said in a statement.
" This is an irresponsible product, which will leave parents stranded in their attempt to address a very important concern. Drug testing offers a false hope for parents."
The kit was a "time bomb set to destroy the already delicate balance of the parent/youth relationship," the statement said.
For those teenagers who have chosen to break the law, finding ways to dodge a urine test or produce a false sample would not resolve the problem, and would only aggravate a challenging relationship.
Herald Feature: Health