As you wrap up your back-to-school shopping and wave your kids goodbye as they run to the bus, take a moment to consider this fact: “21 percent of 12th graders say that they’ve used any illicit drug other than marijuana at least once in their lifetime, and about 36 percent reported using marijuana in the last year” (source). Prescription drug abuse is also a great threat to high school students. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s 2016 study, 12 percent of 12th graders have misused prescription drugs within the past year (source). In an effort to ensure a safe, supportive, and healthy school environment, some districts are turning to student drug testing.
Back to School: Student Drug Testing
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 27 percent of high schools in the United States currently utilize a form of student drug testing (source). Dalton High School of Dalton, Georgia, approved a program earlier this year that requires students to agree to random drug testing in order to participate in extracurricular activities (sports, band, clubs) and to obtain an on-campus parking pass. This is a common approach, as it adds a prerequisite to cherished student privileges like joining a sports team or driving to school. And legally, due to a Supreme Court ruling, schools cannot test all students. They may only randomly drug test those involved in extracurricular activities or seeking parking permits (source).
Most schools that drug test students use random drug testing, but some also engage in reasonable suspicion testing, in which a school can ask a student to provide a urine sample if they have a “reasonable suspicion” to believe the student has violated the school’s drug and alcohol policy. This may occur, for example, if a school official directly observes evidence a student is using drugs or if a student shows physical symptoms of being under the influence.
Typically, student drug testing comes in the form of urinalysis, in which urine specimens are tested for the presence of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, PCP, and opioids. The goal is not to punish students who test positive; instead, programs seek to quickly identify students that have a substance abuse issue and intervene early to prevent long-term addiction (source).
Drug testing should always be a part of a comprehensive drug-free school policy, as testing alone cannot combat student substance abuse.
Benefits of Random Drug Testing in Schools
At Tomo Drug Testing, we work with many school districts to implement student drug testing. Many of these schools have noticed a positive impact since instituting a testing program, including a reduction in drug-related issues amongst students. In addition, students at some of the schools we service have stated that they appreciate that the program gives them a reason to say “no” when someone offers them drugs. Student drug testing can provide all of the following benefits:
- A Safe and Healthy Culture: Student drug testing can help encourage a safe, healthy, and drug-free culture at school. To further reduce the likelihood that students will abuse drugs, schools are encouraged to foster a “positive climate” through clear rules and respectful relationships between students and teachers.
- Identification and Treatment: Through random drug testing, schools can identify students using and abusing drugs early, perhaps before addiction occurs. The school can then refer the students to treatment programs, setting them on a path toward recovery.
- Protection of Teens from Adverse Effects: Did you know that teenagers are especially at risk when it comes to the effects of drugs and alcohol? Their brains are going through an important development process, and substance abuse can jeopardize this process in several ways. It can interfere with neurotransmitters, reduce the ability to experience pleasure, generate memory problems, and create missed opportunities for learning potential (source). Other potential long-term effects include mood changes like depression and anxiety, problems with family and friends, and poor academic performances (source).
- A Reason to Say No: Student drug testing gives teenagers a reason to say “no” when presented with the opportunity to use, acting as a deterrent. During moments of peer pressure, this can be invaluable, as it shifts blame away from the student and provides a concrete reason for a teen to refuse drugs.
Are you interested in starting a drug testing program at your school? You can use the Student Drug Testing Coalition’s resources to view sample drug-testing policies, standards for student drug testing, and guiding principles, amongst other valuable information. In addition, check out our other two blog posts regarding student drug testing:
And if you’re developing a program for random student drug testing, contact Tomo Drug Testing. Based in Springfield, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri, we offer customized solutions to make drug testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and providers allows Tomo Drug Testing to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help.