Most parents understand their teens are exposed to drugs and alcohol, possibly trying, or recreationally using them. In some cases, as a parent, it is better to turn a blind eye and allow your children to learn from their mistakes. In others, teens can actively harm themselves, their futures, and their health by developing substance dependence.
In one study, it was shown that 13% of 8th graders, 30% of 10th graders, and 40% of 12th graders had used drugs at least once in the past year and over half of all new drug users are under the age of 18. Because there are over 24 million people over the age of 12 addicted to substances like drugs or alcohol in the United States, a teen who exhibits signs of drug dependence may be at risk.
However, with no proof that a teen is using, they are unlikely to be open about usage or to come to you for help. Some parents are now turning to drug-sniffing dogs as a solution, paying fees to have their children’s rooms or living spaces searched for drugs by trained canines.
As a parent, you are likely wondering if this is a good idea, how much it costs, and whether you should do it.
What Happens When You Hire a Drug-Sniffing Dog?
Most people are aware that drug-sniffing dogs are used by the police to find and track drugs in homes, airports, and from sellers, but hiring them for private use is increasingly common. While not available everywhere, many states now offer at least one private drug-sniffing dog service, typically for fees as low as $99 + travel, but averaging at $200-$500 for a full property check.
Hiring the contractor is typically simple, you need to sign a contract detailing procedure, expectations, and confidentiality, and then wait for the dog and handler to arrive. Once there, the certified narcotics dog will perform a full check of the premises in the company of the handler and typically, one other person. Most recommend that your teen not be present during the search.
If the dog picks up a scent, it will alert the handler – who will more thoroughly search the area after finishing the sweep.
What Substances Can Drug-Sniffing Dogs Find?
Most narcotics dogs are trained to sniff out almost every type of substance ranging from legal substances like prescription drugs and alcohol, pseudo-legal ones like marijuana, and street drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
Dogs are not typically trained to smell LSD, MDMA (Ecstacy), or magic (Psilocybin) mushrooms. However, there are some exceptions.
How Do Dogs Find Drugs?
Narcotics dogs smell the particles left by drugs and drug residue, which can include the drug, or residue left on the package by oily hands. While dogs cannot smell substances carefully wrapped in clean plastic or inside of sealed glass, the residue left on containers and on areas by contaminated hands is often more than enough for the dog to smell the substance and track it down.
What If Drugs Are Found
Most narcotics dog handlers will come equipped with drug-testing kits, which they can use to test any substances found to ascertain whether they are or not drugs. This may cost extra or may be available as a free service.
In most cases, you will also receive information regarding local rehabilitation services, anti-drug groups, etc. Drug disposal, and the next steps, are completely up to you.
As a parent, you typically have the right to force your child into rehabilitation if they are under the age of 18. All you need to do is provide proof of substance use, sign the paperwork, pay the treatment facility, and drive them there. After they leave, you can use follow-up measures like group therapy and Recovery High School to ensure that they do not slip up again.
Does Not Finding Drugs Mean the Teen is Clean?
Not necessarily. Sometimes teens will use, but they will keep their drugs out of the house. Teens who frequently spend a great deal of time away from home but who come home with signs of intoxication or being high may be using away from home. In this case, you should try to arrange a drug search of their hangouts instead of your home.
Should You Hire Drug Sniffing Dogs for Your Teens?
As a parent, it is up to you to protect your children and help them to make choices for their future. However, it is also up to you to build and maintain trust so that if they have a problem and they are in their right mind, they will come to you for help. Stepping into their life and monitoring cell phones, social media, and their room can be a breach of trust. Hiring a drug-sniffing dog can be even more so, especially if they know about it and you don’t find anything.
Taking any measure which fundamentally invades your teen’s privacy or blatantly shows that you don’t trust them should not be undertaken lightly. However, if you have reason to believe that your child is using and want proof, especially if you need that proof to get them into recovery, drug-sniffing dogs may be an ideal solution.
If you believe that your teen is using and they are exhibiting symptoms of frequent substance use, getting the information you need to put them into rehab can be valuable.
Chances are that as a teen you were less than perfect, may have experimented with drugs or alcohol, and probably hated your parents snooping around. The more your teen sees you ‘prying’, even with their best interest at heart, the more secretive they will be. If you find drugs or alcohol with a drug-sniffing dog, it isn’t enough to tell them about it or to punish them. All they will do is keep using, but more secretly, out of the house, and in places that are likely much more dangerous than your home.
If you are prepared to hire a drug-sniffing dog, you must be prepared to follow up, to source a rehabilitation treatment center for teens, and to do the work to ensure that they get treatment and therapy they need to get better. Addiction is harmful, causing health problems, mental problems, risk-taking behavior that results in lawbreaking and legal issues, and even overdose and death. If your teen has problems, getting them into rehabilitation and therapy will help them to overcome their problems and get their life back.
If you or a loved one is looking for modern and effective treatment programs, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for more information. We are to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.