A product that allows parents to test snippets of their children’s hair for use of illicit drugs went on sale in Australia last week, but our nation’s drug experts have warned the approach is far from a recipe for happy and well-balanced families. HairConfirm is a product from Californian-based Confirm Biosciences, which involves parents cutting a lock of their children’s hair and posting it to the company, receiving an report online within a few days telling them what illicit drugs their child might have used within the past 90 days.
“HairConfirm is designed to help parents take a pro-active role in preventing their children’s illegal drug use,” the company’s CEO told the Geelong Advertiser last week, which pointed to the product as a happy solution for “worried Geelong parents”. However, Geoff Munro from the Australian Drug Foundation told Same Same there are a multitude of problems with such an approach.
“We think the notion of testing children’s hair to judge whether they have used a drug may be very damaging to relationships between parents and children,” says Munro. “It may be a violation of the children’s privacy, and it may certainly be seen by the child as a violation of trust, and in that case it could do lasting damage to the relationship and make communication even more difficult.”
Munro claims such a test fails to address the underlying problems that may be responsible for the drug use, as well as the possibility of incorrect results. “If parents are concerned about their children’s behaviour in any sense, they should be trying to talk to their children about their concerns. And if they’re having trouble making headway, they’re better off seeking some guidance.”
HairConfirm was made available in Australia last week, oddly timed with another incident that threw the spotlight on the potential consequences of prying into a teenager’s personal life; the stunt on 2Day FM’s Kyle & Jackie O Show where a girl 14-year old girl was hooked up to a lie detector and questioned about her drug use and sexual behaviour, which went horribly wrong. “What happened on that show, most people would agree that it’s a violation of trust and a violation of privacy,” says Munro. “It’s a good example of what not to do, and we would hope that parents don’t take such an approach, instead talking about drug use and what is appropriate behaviour.”