• How Does Random Drug Testing Work in Schools?

    Why Test?

    In the last five years drug testing has become more and more prevalent in schools. Concern that athletes are abusing steroids for athletic gain and that regular students might be abusing prescription and illegal drugs without their parents knowledge has brought the issue to greater focus than it had been in even the late 90s when drugs like black tar heroin were a serious problem among teens. Intended as a substance abuse prevention method, the practice has come under some fire from parents and students who feel it invades on their privacy and treats all students as if they are guilty of abuse. However rising problems with prescription drug abuse among teens had largely overridden these concerns for the school districts that have taken to the practice.

    How Does it Work?

    This form of testing is intended to help the hidden user rather than the obvious one. The goal is to find out which students are using without anyone’s knowledge and offer them counseling to remove the substance abuse from their lives before it can cause them serious and permanent damage.

    Here’s how it works:

    • Parents must submit a signed consent form for their child to be part of the testing program.
    • Students who take part must be between the ages of 12 and 17 or if they are 18 must voluntarily sign themselves up.
    • Students are chosen at random for testing during the course of the school year.
    • This testing takes place at both Junior and Senior High Schools.
    • Urine testing is used to get all test results.
    • The results are sent to the student’s parents and aren’t available to the school or faculty. These results are kept confidential and are most often handled by an outside agency hired by the school for this purpose.
    • If the parents would like they can inquire about counseling and other services referred by the district’s guidance office.
    • Parents don’t have to pay for the drug tests; these are paid for by the school district.
    • There are only so many tests performed each school year to preserve random results but it is possible that a child enrolled in the program may undergo more than one test in that time.
    • These results are destroyed after 2 years have passed to protect the privacy and confidentiality rights of the student and their parents.

    Does it Work?

    While concerns remain over the confidentiality of these programs overall the answer is that yes they do work. Many drug users begin as casual users in their teenage and young adult years. For this reason focus on stopping the use before it becomes a problem is key. Thanks to drug testing programs in several U.S. schools the drug abuse levels among teens have decreased significantly. In one New Jersey school where testing occurred use of cocaine among 18 year olds went from 13% down to 4% within a two year span. If this reduction can be consistently maintained drug testing could prove to be a valuable asset to drug prevention.


    Categories: School & Teenage Drug Testing

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