You are on page 1of 26

Parents, experts divided on school drug testing

What Maryellen Stratmann heard at her youngest sons freshman orientation a

few weeks ago was music to the Springfield, Mo., mothers ears: His Catholic
high school would be conducting random drug testing on all students.
Her older son also has random drug testing at his public high school, but only for
kids who participate in extracurricular activities. To Stratmann and her husband
both physicians who have worked in ERs and witnessed firsthand the effects of
drug overdoses and other drug-related problems the more testing the better.
It might help identify a teen who needs help, she reasons. We also think it
makes the campus a safer place, since drugs can interfere with an individual's
ability to make good decisions.
After two Supreme Court decisions upholding the constitutionality of random
drug testing and an increase in funding by the Bush Administration to administer
the urine tests, more schools across the nation are starting to consider this a
feasible method to convey an anti-drug message. Many private schools are
testing entire student bodies, and numerous public schools are testing students
involved in extracurricular activities (e.g., sports, yearbook committees or even
to obtain a parking pass).
Last year, a survey of superintendents by University of New Hampshire
researchers published in the journal Education Law Reporter found that about 12
percent of school districts nationwide now drug test students. An additional 10
percent were considering adopting such policies. Parents can opt out, of course,
but that means either their child wont be able to attend the private school or
wont be allowed to participate in the public-school extracurriculars.
Yet, despite the growing popularity, many experts have misgivings.
Im a firm believer kids shouldnt be using drugs, but I dont think drug testing is
giving people the information they think it is, says Dr. Sharon Levy, director of
the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Childrens Hospital Boston. I hear
people talk about drug testing as if its a pregnancy test. People think its the
simplest thing pee in a cup and run the test and it says yes or no.
Drug tests are typically administered by contracted medical professionals who
randomly select students from a database and come on campus the day of
testing. Children are called out of class and asked to give a urine sample. They
may be escorted to the nurses office, for example, but the students are allowed
privacy while giving the sample. The parents, students and school officials are
notified of the results of the test. If the sample indicates a child is using, in most

cases the student is referred for counseling. Extracurricular activities and

privileges are usually revoked.
Levy explains, however, that testing for drugs is complex and there are many
limitations. For example, if someone is using a drug not being tested for by the
panel, the test will come up negative. If its been 48 to 72 hours since the
student last used, the test will likely come up drug-free. And if the specimen is
adulterated, the test will not be able to detect drugs. Furthermore, prescription
drugs interfere with tests.
Just drinking two half-liter bottles of plain water will dilute the urine so much
that itll drive detection of substances below detection level, says Levy.
False sense of security
Some parents warn that the results of drug tests are in fact so untrustworthy that
they fear others will actually gain a false sense of security from knowing their
schools test.
Judith Kirkwood, a Fitchburg, Wis., mother says she knows from experience that
drug tests are far from reliable. Her son, who is now 19 and sober, started doing
drugs in middle school. My son was using marijuana regularly by eighth grade
and went on to cocaine, crack and heroin, says Kirkwood, who is a member of
the Parent Advisory Board of Partnership for a Drug-Free America and blogs
about adolescent drug use at Throughout his
drug use, Kirkwood says her son was being randomly tested to little avail.
I know my son was able to use other kids urine for random drug screens at a
credentialed medical lab. You literally have to have your eyes glued to kids
private areas in order to ensure a clean screen, and I just dont think our schools
are equipped to perform the tests or that parents would accept that kind of
scrutiny, and they shouldn't, says Kirkwood.
She contends that as random drug testing in schools grows, so will the black
market for ways to fool the test. Clean urine samples and masking products with
names such as UrinAid, THC Free and Instant Clean are already available.
Moreover, Levy says she worries about drug testing as a child-rearing strategy.
What I know about adolescent development and behavior is that drug testing is
a threat, and threats work a bit, but not in the long term, she says. We dont
recommend you threaten your kids to get them to not do things.
Surprisingly, preliminary research by Levy and colleagues indicates that drug
testing is so susceptible to both tampering and misinterpretation, even in the
hands of reputable medical professionals, that merely talking to kids would likely

garner more information and more accurate information than random drug
The people asking the questions need to have training but kids do answer
these questions. Theres no doubt. Will everyone tell the truth? Of course not,
says Levy. But when you sort of give it over to drug testing and say, Now, I
want to see a negative test, theyll find a way to give you a negative test.
Leading experts on adolescent drug use bring up another disconcerting issue:
There are comprehensive education and outreach programs that have scientific
studies indicating that kids who go through them do fewer drugs, but there is no
scientific evidence that suggests random drug testing has a similar impact. In
fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration maintains
the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, a database of
proven drug-prevention programs. Random drug testing is not included in this
Dr. Linn Goldberg, a researcher at Oregon Health and Science University, likens
testing to a doctor prescribing an experimental blood pressure medication
instead of one that has been proven effective. He and other drug abuse experts
say that the message that drug prevention is evidence-based and certain
programs work has not been heard. Instead, billions of dollars have been
squandered on programs without scientific merit that do not work (e.g., D.A.R.E.,
the Just Say No ad campaign and, possibly, random drug testing).
A look at how heroin, cocaine and other drugs affect the bodyWhy would you
ever say, We know something that works, but lets try something that we dont
know works? says Goldberg.
Proponents on both sides are undoubtedly well intended, but we may soon have
a long awaited piece of evidence to give credence to one group. Goldberg says
his team is crunching the data collected from a two-year randomized controlled
study of schools with and without random drug testing. Hes now preparing for
Don Stewart, superintendent of Penn Manor School District in Lancaster County,
Penn., believes theres no time to waste. I like [drug testing] because it says we
are willing to do all it can to prevent kids from throwing away their lives with
drug use.
His district is in its second year of random testing, and for now, anecdotal
evidence is enough for him. Last year, with random drug testing in place,
Stewart says only about one-third the number of students were referred for drug-

related judicial review compared to the previous year in his district. Im not
saying well see the same thing this year or that theres necessarily a cause and
effect relationship, he admits. I dont have empirical data. Still, implementing
drug testing speaks to what our community stands for. We dont turn our backs
on a problem.
The youngest Stratmann boy agrees. As long as the testing is done with an
emphasis on helping kids and their families, says 14-year-old Joe, why not?
Victoria Clayton is a freelance writer based in California and co-author of
"Fearless Pregnancy: Wisdom and Reassurance from a Doctor, a Midwife and a
Mom," published by Fair Winds Press.
Pros & Cons of Random Drug Tests in High School
Many school management systems already do, or have considered
implementing, drug testing. The argument for implementing these policies
is that they will deter drug use. Drug testing is a way for the schools to
screen students and identify, when playing sports, whether they are
impacting their performance with illegal drugs or steroids. The National
Association of School Boards estimated that from 500 to 2,000 -- or 3.5
percent of schools -- perform random drug tests as of February 2011
Pro: Breaking Addiction

One benefit, and goal, of identifying drug use while in school is to intervene before the drug
use becomes too involved. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that as an individual
continues to take drugs, her body becomes less responsive to the drug and needs to take more
or try other, harder drugs to get the same feeling -- which eventually leads to addition. If drug
use is caught early enough, intervention can happen.
Pro: Avoid Singling People Out

Random drug testing is a better alternative to targeted drug testing because parents and
students will not be able to argue a student was unfairly targeted to receive a test instead of
his best friend, for example. Many times, students are targeted for symptoms that may be
linked to drug use such as red or glassy eyes. It's difficult to set criteria that are fair and
applies to all students equally.
Con: Does Not Deter Drug Use

Although many officials suggest that drug testing circumvents use, a federal study conducted
in 2003 with 76,000 students determined that drug use is just as prevalent in schools with
drug testing as it is in schools without testing, according to Dr. Lloyd Johnston from the
University of Michigan. Drugs surveyed included marijuana, heroin and cocaine.
Con: Violates Constitutional Rights

One of the primary arguments against drug testing in schools is that it violates rights to
privacy, mainly due to protection from unnecessary search and seizure. Some people feel that

drug testing can lead to other civil liberties being infringed upon, such as unnecessary camera
surveillance and tracking.

Pros & Cons of Drug Testing in Schools

Laws exist that allow drug testing for students under categories of "cause or
suspicion." Beyond that, random drug testing for all students has remained
unconstitutional. Many supporters of random drug testing believe that the
potential deterrent it offers outweighs the legal justifications against it.
Objectors to random drug testing often use these legal justifications to
defend the privacy of students, and, in the past, have always won with this
defense. However, the tides are beginning to shift politically as the
incidences of substance abuse among adolescents remains disturbingly
high. Thus, the problem of drug abuse in schools remains while the moral
and ethical continue to battle the legal and empirical
The Controversy

Drug testing within public and private school environments has long been debated. The
controversy seems to stem from the basic issues of personal privacy under constitutional law
and the question as to whether random drug testing is, in fact, an effective deterrent to drug
In a study cited in the Journal of Drug Education (2005), several test groups of adolescents,
ranging from kindergartners to 12th-graders, were asked to voice their perceptions of random
drug testing for extracurricular activities. Researchers discovered that students were more
likely to advocate drug testing if they were involved in an after-school activity and not using
drugs and/or alcohol. Most students also believed that drug testing would not affect
participation in extracurricular activities.
However, upper-level high school students were hesitant about mandatory drug testing as a
prerequisite for extracurricular activities. These same students had less apprehension when it
was suggested that all members of the school (students, administrators, teachers, coaches)
had to undergo drug testing.
These results would seem to indicate that the controversy over drug testing in schools for
students exists more with the inherent violation of privacy than with the fear of being caught
for drug abuse. The moral, ethical and legal controversy over mandatory drug testing in
schools is a valid argument; many legislators and school administrators are hesitant to enforce
random drug testing because it infringes upon the individual's right to the presumption of
innocence, as well as the right to be free from unreasonable and unwarranted searches.
So, if there is so much protest against the implementation of random drug testing, why the
debate? What is the other side of the argument that keeps this issue at the forefront of
educational and constitutional platforms?

Despite the tremendous and costly effort by local and national drug-prevention programs, the
incidences of drug-use in schools remains high. Dr. Oscar G. Buckstein, a Professor of
Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and psychiatrist with the Western Psychiatric

Institute, relays that random drug testing is being considered by schools out of desperation for
an alternative solution.
Nothing seems to be working--all the education and "scare tactics" do not seem to have any
statistical affect on the use of drugs among adolescents. This desperation forces schools to
make imperative, and often controversial, choices to combat suspected drug use. Dr.
Buckstein notes that while "the random testing of all students is unconstitutional, the Court
recently held in a five-to-four decision that a mandatory drug-testing program for students
involved in extracurricular activities is permissible." This has wide-reaching implications for
the future of random drug testing in schools, and it seems to suggest a shift in the logic
behind the existent laws. Supporters of these laws feel that the benefits that random drug
testing can provide, such as a reduction in drug use as well as early intervention for identified
substance abusers, far outweigh the potential negative litigation surrounding the issue.

The main objection to random drug testing in schools continues to be the violation of
constitutional rights: laws of presumable innocence and laws that free individuals from
unwarranted search and seizure. Many students feel that their civil liberties are at risk and
that if random drug searches are allowed, this potentially opens a flood-gate for other forms
of surveillance and monitoring that infringes upon their rights at citizens.
Many school administrators feel the same way; quite frankly, many school administrators fear
the legal ramifications of even attempting to implement a random drug testing policy. A
firestorm of individual legal battles could result, which would cost the district tremendously,
in both time, reputation and finances.
In addition, little to no evidence has been published to actually validate the effectiveness of
measures such as random drug testing.
Dr. Buckstein observes that because "until recently the constitutionality of random drug
testing was uncertain, there has been little time to implement studies of its effectiveness."
Many experts, including Dr. Buckstein, feel that the issue of random drug testing has less to
do with empirical evidence of its effectiveness in combating drug use and more to do with
political agendas. Dr. Buckstein concludes his article by asserting that "government and
school districts should continue to focus on evidence-based practices rather than politically
expedient ones."

While the issue of random drug testing for all students remains unconstitutional, educators
and parents should focus on what is permissible by law, to help those students most at risk for
drug abuse. Student drug testing has always been allowed for those adolescents who fall
under the category of "cause or suspicion," and it is often determined on a referral basis by
students, teachers, parents or administrators. Most schools have Student Support Teams,
which are groups of trained educators, psychologists, guidance counselors and administrators
who can initiate and manage such requests. These requests often require a parent signature of
permission in order to test the minor.
Experts agree that the one aspect evidence does support is that early intervention of suspected
drug abusers and early referral to substance abuse programs helps the student overcome
substance abuse. While the political, legal and moral debate over random drug testing
continues, parents must cooperate and communicate with other teachers, coaches,

administrators and students to monitor the warning signs of substance abuse and intervene
without hesitation when a child exhibits these signs.
Public Opinions

When asked about random drug testing in schools, a mixture of positive and negative
responses were voiced--proving, once again, that the controversy remains as fevered and
relevant as ever.
"Students must be tested for drugs, due to increase in the level of addiction among students
and I think this will help most of the worried parents."
"Students drug testing is very important as it is the students who are addicted at an alarming
rate, and we should first save our younger generations."
"Random drug testing is bad, but maybe a random drug test of the whole school or college,
not just individual students. Although a mammoth task is fairer and less of an invasion of
personal privacy if it is recognized as an official event."
In an article published by the Beaufort Observer, the North Carolina Court of Appeals called
into question the drug-testing policy of the Beaufort County Schools. An attorney
representing the teachers and community in the legal debate voiced his concerns in a simple
analogy: "For those who are not into legal mumbo-jumbo, let us close with an analogy.
Beaufort County's policy, and that used by Graham County Schools, is analogous to you
going to answer a knock on your door one day and a law enforcement official is standing
there. He says to you, 'We have decided to search every fifth house on this block, and yours is
the 10th house. Open up and we're going to go through your stuff.' When you ask what they
believe you have done wrong they say, 'Oh, nothing actually, we just want to see if you have
any illegal controlled substances in your house.' Let's hope they don't find something in your
house they can charge you with."
Prevent drug use

There is a clear and present problem with drug use among children and teenagers in many
countries. According to the UK Department of Health, in 2002-2003 38% of 15 year olds had
used illegal drugs, as had 8% of 11 year olds[1]. The fact that all of these children would
have been in schools at the age of 15 shows that current policies of targeting the supply train
of drugs (for example by arresting drug dealers and intercepting drug shipments) is failing to
protect children. Therefore a more direct approach that intervenes at the point of consumption
is needed, most crucially for children and teenagers, as their years in education are crucial for
both their personal development and their realization of their future education and
employment potential.
Drug use at a young age may lead to lifelong use and addiction. Random drug testing in
schools will allow for vulnerable children's drug problems to be discovered, and assist the
state in getting them the help they need to get off drugs. Random testing is especially
valuable in this scenario because many infant and teenage drug users will try to disguise their
drug use from parents and teachers and so avoid detection through avoiding suspicion, a
tactic which will prove of no use against random drug tests which will likely affect all

students at one point or another. It should also deter many students from starting taking drugs
in the first place as the prospect of them being caught becomes far more likely, as they know
disguising their drug use will be of no use.
[1] Department of Health. Statistics on young people and drug misuse: England,

Drug users' decisions are influenced by an irrational desire to fulfil the chemical need they
feel (to get their 'high'). As a consequence many drug users in schools will simply look for
ways to evade drug testing regimes that are put in place. This is a problem as drug testing is
most likely to catch cannabis users (the most widely-used drug among teenagers)[1], as
cannabis endures longer in the body than other more dangerous drugs such as heroin and
cocaine. This can potentially lead would-be cannabis users to switch to these harder drugs,
most of which generally have significantly shorter detection times and/or are less likely to be
tested for.[2] This harm clearly outweighs the benefits of catching or deterring a few more
cannabis users.
[1] Department of Health. Statistics on young people and drug misuse: England,
[2] Rosenbaum, Marsha. Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs.
Drug Policy Alliance. January 1, 2007

Discuss This!

School's duty of care


Peer pressure drives most drug use among children and teenagers.[1] The fact that the state
requires all children to be engaged in education means that most of them will be gathered into
large groups in schools for most of the day, five days a week, essentially creating the
necessary conditions for peer pressure to take place and be powerful. This occurs as some
children face ostracism or exclusion from their peers in the social environment that the state
compels them to be in if they refuse to take illegal drugs, if drug use is deemed necessary to
be 'cool' or 'popular'.
It is, generally, the state that operates a western liberal democracys education system. Under
circumstances in which children are placed into the care of the state, and are made vulnerable
to peer pressure the state has a duty to ensure that children are not coerced into using drugs.
This means that concerns of 'privacy' are secondary to protecting the choice not to take drugs,

as ensuring the 'privacy' of all students by not having random drug tests empowers some
students to socially coerce other students into using drugs when they otherwise would not.
Random drug tests help prevent cultures or norms of drug-taking (by which it can become the
'cool' thing to do) by ensuring that most drug users will be caught and helped to quit, thus
protecting the choice of others not to be pressured into drug use.
[1] Rosenbaum, Marsha. Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs. Drug
Policy Alliance. January 1, 2007

Discuss This!


None of these benefits apply if the peer pressure simply switches to harder drugs which are
harder to test for or less likely to be tested for.
Moreover, peer pressure can exist outside of schools, and amongst older teenagers who have
the choice to vary their attendance of sixth forms, FE colleges or senior high schools.
Random drug testing could lead to older children being pressured to cut classes for prolonged
periods of time, in order to take drugs, in order to be thought of as cool.
Teenagers are also notorious for believing that nothing bad can happen to me, even if that
bad thing becomes more likely (such as being caught with a random drugs test). This is
demonstrated by the fact that many teenagers already engage in illegal drug use despite the
reasonably high chances that an adult will see them using drugs, smell smoke or notice the
drug's effects on them in the status quo.[1]
[1] Grim, Ryan. Blowing Smoke: Why random drug testing doesn't reduce student drug
use. Slate. March 21,

Discuss This!

No harm to non-drug users


Random drug tests will pose no harm to students who do not use illegal drugs, as they have
nothing to fear from this fact being certified. If anything it serves as a vindication of their
law-abidance and good character.

Random drug tests will only catch those who are actively taking drugs, as tests can be used
which are unlikely to make a 'positive' reading from secondary exposure (for example, being
near someone else smoking cannabis).
Those actively taking drugs need help in getting off drugs far more urgently than they need
their right to 'privacy', as addiction at a young age could have a significant negative impact
upon the remainder of their time in education. Therefore, non-drug users have nothing to fear
from testing. As a result random checks are in the best interests of drug users.
Discuss This!


Students who do not use illegal drugs do have something to fear - the violation of privacy and
loss of dignity caused by random drug tests. They may well feel that they are being treated as
under suspicion with no evidence or cause, and resent this imposition upon their privacy.
Indeed, the indignity of drugs testing may compel children who are already in a position of
vulnerability as a result of social marginalisation or personal or family problems to drop out
of school entirely.
Discuss This!

Right to privacy

Even if a right to privacy (which would prevent random drug testing with no reason for
suspicion) does not exist in law in every country, many students being affected by drugs tests
will perceive that the notional right to privacy which they believe they possess is being
violated. Because they would perceive this violation as a harm, it should not be imposed
without good reason. This problematizes the nature of 'random' testing, which by definition
means forcing drug tests on individuals on whom there is no reasonable suspicion of drug
Firstly, the majority of those being tested will most likely test negative (as the previously
cited statistics suggest) and so a majority will be harmed for no fault of their own, but rather
as a consequence of the crimes of others. This may be seen as the equivalent of searching all
homes in a neighbourhood for an illegal weapon on the suspicion that one of them was hiding
it -an action which would be illegal in almost every western liberal democracy.
Further, however, even if students do engage in illegal drug use, random drug tests will
additionally catch only those on whom there was previously no suspicion against (as students
who show signs of drug use are already usually tested). In order to not already be under

suspicion, these drug-using students would have to be engaging in their education, not
disrupting the education of others, and not displaying erratic or harmful behaviour. As they
are not actively harming others, these students should be subject only to the same standards
as individuals in other areas of society: to only have their privacy violated by drugs tests if
their behaviour actively brings them under suspicion.
Discuss This!


The students in question may not realize the long-term harms of drug use or fully understand
the risks of addiction, and as they are not yet fully adult and responsible for themselves, the
state has the right to ensure that they do not exercise their 'right to privacy' in a way that
could be harmful to them.
Discuss This!

Keeping teenagers in education


Studies in Michigan in the USA have found that random drug tests in schools do not deter
drug use, as schools with and without random tests have similar levels of drug use among
their pupils.[1]
It seems unlikely that random drug tests will, in fact, deter students from taking drugs. What
such tests will result in, however, is a greater number of exclusions and disciplinary actions
resulting from catching student drug users, which as the studies have shown has no guarantee
of lowering drug use overall.
Faced with a situation of continuing to be caught and reprimanded for drug use in school due
to random drug tests, many older teenagers who reach the age whereby they may choose to
leave school may choose to do so in greater numbers. This may well be compounded by an
adolescent desire to rebel and reject authority when it tries to prevent them doing what they
want, and so a greater number of teenage students may drop out of school so as to allow
themselves to continue doing what they want more easily that is, taking drugs. Leaving
school at such an age for no other reason than to pursue a drug-using lifestyle is almost
certainly more harmful than the worst-case alternative, whereby they at least remain in
education even if they continue to use illegal drugs, comparatively improving their future
career and education choices. Simply driving teenagers out of education with random drug
tests benefits no-one.
[1] Grim, Ryan. Blowing Smoke: Why random drug testing doesn't reduce student drug
use. Slate. March 21,

Discuss This!


Using random drug tests would mean that a greater number of teenage drug users would be
caught and put into drug rehabilitation programs, which would surely help at least some of
them. The school's duty of care means that they must at least be given this chance to give up
drugs, even if they refuse it, as opposed to simply allowing them to keep using, which will
most likely disrupt their education severely anyway.
Discuss This!

Safeguarding the teacher-student relationship


Random drug tests change the student-teacher relationship from one of trust into one of
suspicion, whereby the teachers and the school establishment become a body which many
students will perceive as being out to catch them, and suspicious of all. The destruction of
this trust makes it far harder for teachers to impart useful information on illegal drugs and the
consequences of their use to students, and students may be less willing to seek teachers out
on this information. This would lead to students relying increasingly on their peers and the
internet for information on illegal drugs, and this information is far more likely to be of
questionable policy or influenced by notions of drug use as 'cool' or glamorous. Thus schools'
anti-drugs message may be harmed by random drug tests.
Discuss This!


Random drug tests may actually help remove mistrust between teachers and students.
Individual suspicion will no longer be the cause of drug tests for students, but rather these
tests will be something al students will face at one time or another. This means students may
actually feel freer to approach their teachers, and they may feel the need to more keenly, as
they know they may be tested at any time.
Discuss This!
In January 2005, a school in Kent become the first state school in the UK to report
the introduction of random (suspicionless) drug testing. Testing is already
widespread in independent boarding schools, with three-quarters of schools

reported to be using some drug testing.1 There is no doubt that for governors,
teachers and parents drug testing seems an attractive solution both to prevent
and deal with illicit drug use among their pupils. The Kent initiative, partly funded
by the News of Worldand supported by the testing manufacturers Altrix
Healthcare plc, has been broadly welcomed, such that only a small proportion of
parents have opted their children out of the scheme.2 Despite the enthusiasm
from teachers and parents for testing, few empirical studies have examined the
effects of drug testing in schools. With adults, an Independent Inquiry into Drug
Testing at Work3 cautioned against introducing random drug testing in the
workplace, concluding that it was inappropriate to drug test as a means of
policing private behaviour of employees or improving productivity, except
perhaps in safety-critical industries. We believe that if drug testing is not
appropriate for adult employees then it should also be unacceptable to test
school children.
Illicit drug use is certainly prevalent among the young. In 20022003 the British
Crime Survey4 found that 36% of 1659-year-olds reported using one or more
illicit drugs in their lifetime, 13% using Class A (cocaine, heroin) drugs. Cannabis
is the most frequently reported drug with around 3 million users per year and 16
24-year-olds were the age group most likely to use illicit drugs in the past year
(28%). The latest survey of school children by the Department of
Health5 reported that 21% had used drugs in the past year with 12% admitting
to having used in the past month. As with adults, cannabis was the most
frequently used drug.

Other Sections
Those that advocate drug testing in schools do so in the belief that it is likely to
reduce drug taking, deter use, provide proof where use is suspected, assist
former users to remain abstinent, reassure parents that something is being
done and act as final proof when expulsion is being considered. The Office of
National Drug Control Policy in US6 asserts that random drug testing in schools
has been effective in reducing drug use and, most importantly, deters drug use
among adolescents. Drug testing was responsible for a significant reduction in
cigarette smoking among 8th grade students (13-year-olds) from 35.9% to
24.4%, alcohol use from 39.9% to 30%, and cannabis use from 18.5% to 11.8%.
In an attempt to examine the effectiveness of drug testing, James and Moore
studied 296 adolescents who had established drug or alcohol problems attending
a treatment centre.7 Drug testing was an effective tool in helping to prescribe
appropriate treatment strategies for these young people with pre-existing drug

problems. The authors concluded that strategic and focused testing via urine
tests could bring about behavioural change, although it is unwise to generalise
this specific situation to that of a large school where only a small proportion of
the pupils will have problems with drug or alcohol misuse.
The only systematic study of random drug testing in schools failed to find an
impact.8In this study of 76 000 8th, 10th and 12th grade students across a
number of schools the researchers found that testing was not associated with
either the prevalence or the frequency of student cannabis use and other illicit
drug use by male high school athletes. McKeganey,9 in an important review of
drug testing in schools published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, noted the
concern at the development of drug testing programmes on the basis of the
slimmest available research evidence.

Other Sections
Drug testing is conducted by taking blood, urine, saliva, hair, breath or sweat,
and analysing this sample to determine whether it contains certain substances.
The biological detection involves a screening test followed by a confirmatory test
if positive. The different methods provide different information, with some, such
as hair tests, able to test for drugs used within the past 12 weeks or longer
depending on the length of the hair sample (7100+ days). Other detection
times include; 13 days for urine, 136 hours for saliva and 114 days for
sweat.10 Each method carries its own problems. For example, while urine testing
is cheap and able to detect most drugs of misuse, observed tests (to avoid
adulteration) are problematic in children. Hair testing is more expensive, can
provide qualitative and quantitative analysis of drug use over previous weeks
although cannot detect very recent (past few days) use. Hair testing can be
discriminatory: dark-haired people are more likely to test positive than blonds, as
well as having the problem of false-positive results due to passive exposure.
Testing saliva (the method used in the Kent school2) has the advantages of
acceptability, and little chance of adulteration as it is obtained under direct
observation. However, there is a very short detection window and, moreover,
saliva is less effective in the detection of cannabis, the most widely abused drug
in adolescence. Testing sweat is more expensive than other methods, requires
specialist laboratory services for analysis and can be contaminated by passive
exposure. Nevertheless, it is non-invasive, is quick to apply, and is difficult to
provide sample substitution and, hence, may have some advantages over other

There are significant problems associated with testing. The cheapest form of
testing is the low-cost immunoassay urine test, and costs around US$1430 per
test;11confirmatory tests also add to the cost. False positives can be found from
commonly taken medications: codeine products and poppy seeds can produce
false-positive tests for opiates; ibuprofen a false positive for cannabis; and
decongestants false positive for amphetamines. Even herbal teas can produce
false-positive results.12 To avoid false positives it would be important to ask the
student to list prescribed and non-prescribed medication, creating an additional
burden of non-confidentiality. The quick and easy immunoassay tests can only be
used as a preliminary screening tool, with any positive result requiring a more
sensitive confirmatory test before relying on the results for any purpose that may
have serious consequences to the person being tested. Even using the cheapest
screening test the whole procedure can be costly for schools, especially as
frequent testing increases a potential deterrent effect of testing. Too infrequent
testing will only serve to minimise the risk that youths feel of being detected.
The cost of testing is likely to exceed most schools' entire expenditure on drug
education, prevention or counselling. In one school district in US, the cost of
detecting only 11 students who tested positive amounted to US$35 000.13

Other Sections
It is possible that a random drug testing policy may inadvertently move users
from experimental into problematic use if drug testing captures social use and
makes problematic what is currently transient and non-problematic. Students can
outsmart their testers and find ways of cheating the tests. A Google search for
passing a drug test resulted in over 900 000 hits in less than 1 second. In a
school district in US, students who were facing a hair test shaved their heads and
body hair.14 Others have argued that drug testing can lead to mistrust and
resistance from students and, thus, inadvertently perpetuate problems,
particularly in inner city schools.15
The lack of trust implicit on testing must not be underestimated. By subjecting a
young person to testing, even with the student's and parental consent, implies a
loss of trust. The process of testing may be long and involved with initial
screening tests and then confirmatory tests if the result is positive. This process
may be harmful for the child, leading him or her to be labeled as a user. If drug
testing is introduced it must therefore be supported by treatment and a
supportive environment.
Drug testing must respect privacy and confidentiality. Parents and children must
receive accurate and detailed information on the school policy; parents must

give consent for younger children, with older children giving their own consent if
they understand the full implications. All should be fully informed of the problems
with biological testing, the course of action that will be taken on the result of a
test this both in terms of disciplinary action but more importantly treatment
approaches and pastoral care and support. At present there is little evidence
that random testing in schools prevents drug use in those that have not started
or deters those already engaged in drug taking. In addition,16 it has been argued
that random testing fails the Department of Health screening criteria.17 Schools
need to determine whether random testing is a preventative and/or deterrent
measure, or used within a treatment programme. There is an urgent need to
determine whether such programmes are effective in accomplishing specific
goals in order to justify continued and more generalised testing. The Department
for Education and Skills have produced guidance on all matters relating to drug
education, the management of drugs within the school community and
supporting the needs of pupils.18 This guidance recommended that schools
should ensure that pupils who may be vulnerable to drug misuse are identified
and receive appropriate support, although, importantly, does not suggest
random testing to identify these pupils.
If drug-testing programmes are instituted they should at the very least involve
children, parents and the wider community in a consensus on the type of testing
and responses to such testing. Alone, random testing will not identify all those
young people who may benefit from early identification and supportive
intervention. A supportive environment with links to young people's health
services may be more appropriate. We believe the ethical, practical and
economic risks of testing do not out weigh the potential benefits, and stress the
importance of research before introduction of a widespread programme that has
little evidence.

The main purpose of random school drug testing is not to catch kids using drugs, it to keep
them from ever using them. Once their using drugs its harder for them to break their
addiction. With many employers drug testing its very important for a kid's future not to use
drugs. Drug use is responsible for many crimes. Its worth the inconvenience for all our future.
Welcome to the Student Drug Testing Coalition web site. The Coalition is a project
of the Drug-Free Projects Coalition, Inc.
The site is maintained to provide technical resources, materials and information
about student drug testing programsa proven deterrent to student drug use
and contains reports on current research and student drug use data; studentdrug testing court case rulings; summaries of school policies; links to other
resources, and more. Please feel free to contact us with suggestions on ways we
may improve the value of this site for you.

There is a clear correlation between drug use and declining academic
"Drug-impaired students undermine our country's ability to compete on the world
stage. Unfortunately, compared with many of our international competitors, the
U.S. is operating at a handicap because too many of our youth, indeed our
citizens, are abusing drugs. America represents four percent of the worlds
population, yet it consumes two-thirds of the world's illegal drugs."
Quoted from a new report documenting the fact that student drug use is
compromising academic success in U. S. schools. To read the full report by Judy
Kreamer, Gary M. Fields, Ph.D., et al., titled "The Overlooked Cause of Children
Being Left Behind: Drug Use Compromising Academic Success," published by
Educating Voices, Inc., 2008, click here.

Results of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia

Universitys (CASA) twelfth annual National Survey of American Attitudes on
Substance Abuse are, in CASAs word unprecedented, revealing . . . that the
corridors and classrooms of our nations middle and high schools are so infested
with drugs that for many students school days have become school daze. Parents
should wake up to the reality that their children are going each day to schools
where drug use, possession and sale are as much a part of the curriculum as
arithmetic and English.Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Chairman and President
August 2007 National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XII:
Teens and Parents
CASAs scathing indictment of the current drug situation in our nations schools
has sounded the alarm. Parents and school administrators should heed the report
as a call to action to take whatever steps are necessary to stop this trend of
accepting drug use as the norm. Drug-infested schools should be an
unacceptable reality to all who care about the health, education and welfare of
U.S. children.
The members of the Student Drug-Testing Coalition applaud Mr. Califano for the
following statement made in the CASA report: Those responsible for this
appalling situation should be held politically and legally responsible, in state and
local elections and in the courts, for the damage that is being done to children
forced to attend drug-infested schools.
Parents and educators need to know if their elected representatives are among
those supporting pro-drug issues such as legalizing and promoting marijuana as
a medicine. Such support tells young people that, not only is marijuana a
harmless drug, but that it is illicit without a basis in fact. Concluding, therefore,
that all the anti-drug messages from parents and educators and school
prevention programs should not be considered credible if marijuana is considered
a medicine. You must challenge the local and national media when it is

supportive of a pro-drug/pro-legalization messages. Do not let pro-drug

advocates such as the ACLU, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy
Project, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws et. al. tell
your communities and schools what is best for your children or dictate what
school prevention programs will be implemented. Learn about what other schools
have done to successfully reduce drug uselisten to what educators and
administrators have to say about decreasing and deterring drug use in their
schools in this new report from the Coalition.

Do student drug-testing programs negatively impact students?

A 2008 review and analysis of school report-card data on 52 New Jersey school
districts examined the question of how a student random drug-testing program
impacts student culture and morale in school districts where these prevention
programs have been implemented as compared to non-testing districts. The
results of the review and analysis are available in a newreport from the Student
Drug-Testing Coalition.

Another reason to consider implementing a student random drug-testing

"The foundation for later substance use is set for most people by the time they
finish high school," Alicia C. Merline, MA, Substance use is still common at age
35, U-M study finds, University of Michigan News Service, 05 Jan 2004.
Using data on respondents to the Monitoring the Future survey who graduated
high school between 1977 and 1983, University of Michigan researchers
randomly selected graduates from this group to participate in follow-up surveys
every two years. What they found in this follow-up study was that substance use
was surprisingly prevalent at the start of mid-life and that there was a high level
of stability of substance use over the 18-year time period by those who had used
drugs or drank heavily by their senior year in high school.
Summary of findings:
Those using marijuana by their senior year were 8 times more likely to use it at
age 35 than those who had not tried it by the 12th grade.
Those using any illicit drug other than marijuana by their senior year were 5
times more likely to use cocaine and 3 times more likely to misuse prescription
drugs at age 35 compared to students who had not used any illicit drug by their
senior year.
Those who drank heavily were 3 times more likely to drink heavily at 35 years of
age compared to those who did not drink heavily as high school seniors.
Source: Alicia C. Merline, MA, et al., Substance Use Among Adults 35 Years of
Age: Prevalence, Adulthood Predictors, and Impact of Adolescent Substance
Use, January 2004, Vol 94, No. 1, American Journal of Public Health, 96-102.
To read the full study:

At their 114th annual meeting, 16 Oct 2007, the International Association of

Chiefs of Police have adopted a Resolution in support of student drug testing
prevention programs. To read the full resolution click here.

. . . and some people are still heard to say . . . but its only marijuana.
Among persons aged 18 or older, those who first used marijuana
before age 12 were twice as likely to have serious mental illness
in the past year as those who first used marijuana at age 18
or older. Recent research points to an association between
early marijuana use and a heightened risk of developing
schizophrenia or other psychological disorders.
Source: Age at First Use of Marijuana and Past Year Serious Mental Illness, The
NSDUH Report, May 3, 2005, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

Teens driving druggedand it is not from alcohol

Maybe your teen does not use drugs, but many other teens are drug users.
Can you be so certain that the teen drivers your child rides with are not drug
Can school administrations be certain that those with parking privileges are not
driving on school property while under the influence of a drugeither illicit drugs
or alcohol?
Findings from the Pride Survey National Summary 2006 suggest that illicit drugs
may be more prevalent than alcohol in teenage impaired driving. The data
showed that nearly 14 percent of 12th grade students say they use illicit drugs in
carsmore than say they use alcohol in cars.
10th and 11th grade students also showed similar responses. The survey did not
ask if the drug user was the driver.
Data summary on 12th grade student drug use while in cars:
10.1 percent used alcohol
12.9 percent used marijuana
13.6 percent used any illicit drug
Concerned parents and school administrators can take steps to deter drug use
among teen drivers. If your school has a student random drug-testing program,
propose expanding
the program eligibility to cover students with parking permits or privileges. If
your school does not have a random testing program, consider starting one. It is
a proven deterrent to drug useand who knows, maybe the life you save will be
that of your own teen.

Source of data: PRIDE Surveys newsletter January 16, 2007

New report from CADCA:

A new two-page report from CADCA documents the evidence of the link between
drug use and violence. The report is titled: The Inextricable Link: The
Relationship Between Alcohol, Drug Use and Violence Among Students and may
be found at:

Studies affirm drug use leads to poor academic performance

Research on student drug use and academic performance continues to support a
relationship between poor academic performance and drug use (this includes
alcohol use). The most recent study using data from the National Survey on Drug
Use and Health, 2002-2004 continues to affirm this relationship.
Researchers found that the frequency of the use of alcohol and marijuana during
the past month was related to academic performance. Of students reporting an A
or B average:
-72.2% were students who did not use marijuana in the past month as compared
with 58% of those who used marijuana on 1 to 4 days in the past month and
44.9% of those who used marijuana on 5 or more days during the past month.
-72.5% were students who did not use alcohol during the past month as
compared with 67.1% of those who used (but did not binge on) alcohol in the
past month and 57.7% of those who engaged in past month binge alcohol use.
Source: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health,
Academic Performance and Substance Use among Students Aged 12 to 17:
2002, 2003, and 2004." The NSDUH Report, Issue 18, May 2006.

PRIDE Survey data finds adolescent substance use correlates with academic

According to data analysis of the PRIDE Surveys National Summary 2005/2006,

academic performance of students surveyed showed a correlation between
student drug use and academic achievement. High percentages of students
using marijuana and/or alcohol on a monthly basis were shown to rarely make
good grades.
Summary of data analysis:
38% of students who rarely make good grades were also monthly marijuana
Only 7% of students claiming monthly marijuana use frequently made good
49% of students who used alcohol monthly had poor grade performance
Only 18% of students claiming monthly alcohol use were academic achievers
Students with low academic performance also were shown to disproportionately
represent those students reporting truancy, discipline problems, gang
membership and bullying
Source: PRIDE Newsletter, November 16, 2006

According to a recent report from PRIDE surveys, parents dramatically

underestimate alcohol and drug use by adolescents as young as 11 years of age.
Sixth-graders reporting use
21% reported alcohol use
8.3% reported drug use

Parents saying sixth-grader uses

5% said there was alcohol use
0.9% said there was drug use

Twelfth-graders reporting use

Parents saying twelfth-grader uses

68% report alcohol use

41% said there was alcohol use

36% report drug use

15% said there was drug use

An overview of random drugs testing in schools: A survey recently published by the News of
the World on Sunday showed that 82% of parents and 66% of children support school drug
Drug use amongst young people is on the increase, but fortunately so is the awareness of the
whole issue. Despite this, such testing takes place quite rarely in the UK (mainly in Public /

Private Schools), although it is a more common practice in the USA.

The average starting age for heroin abuse in many towns and cities in the UK is currently just
15, and a survey of over 20,000 UK school children showed that 9% of 13 year olds and over
a quarter (27%) of 15 year olds had used an illegal drug at some stage in their lives. So there
is obviously a need for more assertive intervention at an early age.
Parents face the growing concern that their teenager may already be taking drugs, or that they
are in an environment where they are exposed to those who will offer them drugs, especially
Cannabis / Marijuana. The frightening reality is that based on the statistics, this environment
may well be their school.
In order to learn more about drug use (and in particular Cannabis / Marijuana supply and
young people), 182 young people who were Cannabis / Marijuana users aged between 11 and
19 years old were interviewed for a study published in January 2008 by the Joseph Rowntree
Foundation. The sample included both city dwellers and young people living in rural villages.
The study discovered that half of the young people had taken Cannabis / Marijuana into
school or college and 43 per cent admitted that they used Cannabis / Marijuana whilst at
school or college. It is clear from the report that the majority of these young people purchase
Cannabis from their friends or relatives and in turn supply their friends in a new wave of
social and not-for-profit drug taking which is a departure from the typical dealer-user
scenario. One young interviewee told the researchers that the people who sold her Cannabis /
Marijuana included friends from school and shows how combining drug-use with normal
social networking is having the effect of normalising the act of taking drugs.
Whilst the institutions we supply school drug test kits to are benefiting from a reduction in
drug use amongst their students / pupils, not everyone is in favour of random drug testing in
A recent study by Neil McKeganey, Professor of Drug Misuse Research at Glasgow
University, argues that random drug testing in schools is perhaps a more complex and
controversial issue than one would at first consider. Questions arise over matters including
cost, ethical issues (such as what would happen in the event that a pupil tested positive for
drugs and what punishment or deterrent would be appropriate), concerns that pupils may
switch from easily detectable drugs to more harmful drugs in order to avoid detection, and the
probability that a trusting relationship between staff and pupil would be damaged and
encourage a culture of concealment. Furthermore, some may argue that it is possible that
enforcing random drug testing of pupils would conflict with the UN Charter on the Rights of
the Child or the European Charter on Human Rights.
Certainly, accident / incident / suspicion based testing is treated differently to random testing
as you are only taking action on a case by case basis when there is an apparent need for
further investigation. Combine this with earlier awareness and prevention strategies and we
should be closer to finding a solution to this growing problem.
Results from an ICM Research poll which appeared in the News of the World on Sunday
demonstrated that 82% of parents and 66% of children support drug testing in schools and of
the 1,000 parents surveyed, 96% said they would want to know if their son or daughter was
taking drugs, so the public perception is that there is a need for action.

So what can be done?

Types of School Drug Testing:

For Schools / Colleges / Universities, please find more information on drug testing and the
products and services we have to offer on ourdrug testing page.

On-site Urine Drug Testing

Laboratory Urine Drug Testing

Hair Drug Tests

Oral / Saliva Drug Tests

Surface Drug Detection Wipes

We also offer drug and alcohol policy development / review consultancy services and drug
awareness training.
For parents:
In the absence of a random drug screening programme at school or college, anxious parents,
guardians or caregivers who have concerns about teenagers or young people using drugs are
able to conduct a drug test in the privacy of the home. These home drug test kits are used
daily by professionals in the healthcare industry and one test can provide easy to read results
in minutes for a variety of different drugs. This includes the most common drugs, such as
Cannabis / Marijuana, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Benzodiazepines, Opiates, Methadone and
Methamphetamines (including ecstasy).
Drug-Aware Ltd is considered by many to be a UK authority on drug and alcohol awareness,
information and testing. Visit our drugs and alcohol information page for more information on
the signs, symptoms and effects of the most common drugs or our home drug tests frequently
asked questions page to answer your questions on carrying out testing in the home or to buy
drug testing kits online.

So why choose Drug-Aware for your Drug Testing requirements?

At Drug-Aware, we pride ourselves on providing a comprehensive solution when it comes to drug
Take a look at all of the additional extras we add as standard!

Blowing Smoke

Why random drug testing doesn't reduce

student drug use.
Student smoking a joint

Drug testing of the American public has been steadily broadening over the past 20 years,
from soldiers to grocery baggers to high-school and middle-school students. In its 2007
budget, the Bush administration asks for $15 million to fund random drug testing of students
if approved, a 50 percent increase over 2006. Officials from the federal drug czar's office
are crisscrossing the country to sell the testing to school districts.
Yet, according to the two major studies that have been conducted on student testing, it doesn't
actually reduce drug use. "Of most importance, drug testing still is found not to be associated
with students' reported illicit drug useeven random testing that potentially subjects the
entire student body," determined the authors of the most recent study.

It seems like common sense that if students are warned they could be caught getting high any
day in school, they'd be less likely to risk it. And principals and the drug czar's office argue
that this random chance "gives kids a reason to say no." But teens are notorious for assuming
that nothing bad will happen to them. Sure, some people get caught, but not me. In addition, a
student who chooses to do drugs already has more than a random chance of getting caught
adults are everywhere in this world. Someone could see her, smell smoke, see her bloodshot
eyes, or wonder what the hell is so funny. And since most schools test only students who do
something more than just show up for classlike join an after-school club, park on campus,
or play a sportkids can avoid the activities rather than quit puffing. Testing may not change
much more of the equation than that.
Such are the findings of two major studies. The first study, published in early 2003, looked at
76,000 students in eighth, 10th, and 12th grades in hundreds of schools, between the years
1998 and 2001. It was conducted by Ryoko Yamaguchi, Lloyd Johnston, and Patrick
O'Malley out of the University of Michigan, which also produces Monitoring the Future, the
university's highly regarded annual survey of student drug use, which is funded by the
National Institute on Drug Abuse and whose numbers the White House regularly cites.

The early 2003 Michigan study compared the rates of drug use, as measured by Monitoring
the Future, in schools that did some type of drug testing to schools that did not. The
researchers controlled for various demographic differences and found across the board that
drug testing was ineffective; there was no statistically significant difference in the number of
users at a school that tested for drugs and a similar school that didn't.
The White House criticized the Michigan study for failing to look at the efficacy of random
testing. So, Yamaguchi, Johnston, and O'Malley added the random element and ran their
study again, this time adding data for the year 2002. The follow-up study, published later in
2003, tracked 94,000 middle- and high-school students. It reached the same results as its
precursor. Even if drug testing is done randomly and without suspicion, it's not associated
with a change in the number of students who use drugs in any category. The Michigan
follow-up found one exception: In schools that randomly tested students, 12th-graders
were more likely to smoke marijuana.
Results like these would mean budget cuts or death for some government programs. The
White House has devised its own rating system, known as the Program Assessment Rating
Tool, to help it cull failed initiatives. (These generally turn out to be the type of programs you
wouldn't expect a Republican administration to like, but that's another story.) In 2002, PART
deemed "ineffective" the Safe and Drug Free Schools State Grants program, the umbrella for
school drug testing. The Office of Management and Budget, which runs the PART
evaluations, writes on its Web site, "The program has failed to demonstrate effectiveness in
reducing youth drug use, violence, and crime." The PART evaluation did not single out drug
testing, which is a small part of the overall state grants program. Still, combined with the
Michigan studies, what we have here is a bureaucratic pounding. That hasn't stopped
President Bush from sounding an upbeat note. In his 2004 State of the Union, he said, "I
proposed new funding to continue our aggressive, community-based strategy to reduce
demand for illegal drugs. Drug testing in our schools has proven to be an effective part of this
Pressed for evidence to support the administration's bid to increase funds for testing, drug
officials challenge the Michigan study's methodology. Drug czar John Walters has called for
"detailed pre- and post-random testing data"that is, a study of the rate of drug use at a
school before a random testing program was initiated and then again afterward. Such a study
is currently under way with federal funds, but it comes with a built-in flaw. Drug-use rates are
obtained in questionnaires that school administrators give to students. If the administrators
are asking students about their drug-use habits while they have the power to randomly test
them, how honest can we expect the students to be, no matter what anonymity they're
Like Walters, the $766 million drug-testing industry isn't ready to give up on testing students,
for which it charges between $14 and $30 a cupful of pee. Melissa Moskal, executive director

of the 1,300-member Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association, pointed me to a

preliminary study that she likes better than Michigan's and that Walters also frequently
references. The study is funded by the Department of Education and produced by the Institute
for Behavior and Health, and its lead author is Robert DuPont, a former White House drug
official. DuPont is also a partner at Bensinger, DuPont & Associates. DuPont says that
Bensinger "doesn't have anything to do with drug testing." But the company's Web site states:
"BDA offers a range of products designed to help employers establish and manage workplace
drug and alcohol testing programs."
DuPont's study, which he calls "descriptive," chose nine schools that met certain criteria, the
first of which was, "The student drug testing program's apparent success." The study's
methodology appears to add to the slant. Rather than gathering information from students and
analyzing it, DuPont relies on a questionnaire that asks how effective administrators think
their random drug-testing program is. He doesn't claim neutrality. "I can't quite get the
argument that [drug testing] wouldn't work," he says. He's now working on an evaluation of
eight schools. The results won't be ready soon, but let's venture a prediction: Random drug
testing will come out looking good.