Pubdate: Fri, 20 Feb 2004
Source: Hull Daily Mail (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Northcliffe Newspapers Group Ltd
Author: W. Coles
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Parents in East Yorkshire are to be the first in the country to be
offered "over-the-counter" kits to test their children for drugs.

Hull-based firm Xy-tec Diagnostics has developed a kit it says will
test for cannabis and ecstasy, using a system similar to a simple
pregnancy testing kit.

But today, youth workers and drug experts warned testing children
could divide families and harm the trust between parents and children.

Xy-tec Diagnostics is selling the UKP 12 kit from its offices in
Bowlalley Lane in Hull city centre. Other kits on the market are
available only through the Internet.

The firm, which already supplies drug testing kits for employers to
test new staff, believes there will be a demand for the kits from
parents worried that their children are dabbling in drugs.

Matthew Williams, Xy-tec's technical support manager, said if the kit
proved successful locally it would be marketed nationwide.

He said the firm was already in talks with national retailers to see
if the kits, which include advice leaflets, can be sold over the counter.

Mr Williams said: "The kits will be sold from our office, but if
successful they could be sold over the counter in the same way such
kits are in the United States.

"It is a controversial move because of the question of trust and a lot
of parents will be unsure. But drugs affects all aspects of society
and we regard the kits as the first step to getting proper treatment."

A survey commissioned by primary care trusts in Hull found that in
some areas of the city almost 40 per cent of 14 and 15-year-olds
admitted they had smoked cannabis.

Today Paul Thomas, 56, of Ennerdale, Hull, said the kits should be
used as a last resort by parents.

Mr Thomas, whose son Simon died, aged 21, from a heroin overdose,
works for the East Riding County FA as a drugs awareness officer.

He said: "Asking a child to take one of these tests could affect their
relationship with their parents.

"You cannot force a child to take a test. I would hope a parent could
talk to the child first before getting to that stage."

Jeanette Hornby, a youth worker at the St Stephen's Neighbourhood
Centre on Hull's Greatfield estate, said the kits could suggest to a
child they are already guilty of taking drugs.

Mrs Hornby said: "It's tricky because the test could imply guilt
before it is even taken and it could upset your child and break trust."

Claire Cairns, senior drugs co-ordinator at the Hull and East Riding
Drug Action Team, is also wary about the kits.

She said: "I think the kits are disappointing because they question
the trust between child and parent and do not offer a real solution.

"The best policy from experience is always going to be talking to your
child in the first place."

Meanwhile, John Meakin, of the Hull and East Yorkshire Council for
Drug Problems, added: "I would encourage people to use them with caution.

"I can see why parents may be tempted to purchase a kit but I think
they need to look beyond that.''

'"They could be useful though in a situation where someone has come
off drugs and wants to reassure their parents that they are clean."'

A spokesman for the Home Office said there are no regulations
governing the sale of drug testing kits.

And a spokesman for Boots the Chemist said it does not stock drug
testing kits and has no immediate plans to do so.

Agencies listed in the advice leaflet include:

*The National Drug Helpline on 0800 7 66 00.

*Narcotics Anonymous on 0207 730 0009.

*Families Anonymous Helpline on 0207 498 4680.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin