Should Drug Testing Be Allowed in Schools?

Few people want to think that their children or their children’s friends are involved in drug use, but the fact is that millions of teens indulge in alcohol or illegal drugs, often right in school. Teenagers themselves have contributed information about the availability of drugs and alcohol in junior and senior high schools, and these substances are used in schools during the time school is in session. Only 5% of schools conduct random drug testing, in spite of the rise in drug use in the student population, and that testing is generally used only for those who are competing in sports.

Researchers have found that about 80% of high school students have used drugs or alcohol by the time they graduate. Very alarmingly, up to 20% of boys in the fourth to sixth grade also use drugs or alcohol while in school. Students are very knowledgeable about where it’s safe to knock back a drink or take drugs in school. Those who use drugs often sell them, too, endangering other students.

Invasion of Privacy?

It’s certainly true, that to some extent, drug testing in schools might be considered an invasion of privacy. Random searches of lockers and being called upon to provide a urine sample are stressful even to students who don’t use drugs. Conversely, students who are intoxicated can be disruptive in the class and are more likely to encourage others to take drugs, too. Peer pressure is a very powerful motivator for children in school, and fear of being left out of what is seen as a popular group, or even ostracized, can cause a student who would otherwise stay away from drugs or alcohol to begin use of these substances.

Drug testing in schools is already used in a limited way among those competing in athletics, and most people will find that as they enter the work force, even for entry level positions, that they will have to provide a urine sample for testing. The prevalence of drugs in society has, unfortunately, made drug testing necessary to one degree or another. Most high school students already report that their schools are ‘infested’ with drugs.

Getting Caught

Those students who are found to be using drugs are not reported to the police – the results of the test are kept completely private and confidential. However, early intervention for a drug problem can help a student stop using drugs before the habit is ingrained; the longer drugs are used, the higher the probability that drug use will continue into addiction. Counseling, treatment, and the involvement of the parents can help the child who is using drugs to straighten out his or her life.

A positive from a drug test is sent to a laboratory to be further tested, to assure accuracy. Use of prescription medications will be taken into consideration during testing. Drug testing is important during the teen and preteen years because the brain is still developing and can suffer permanent damage from drug use, especially if the child is a habitual user who has already become addicted. Sadly, most parents are completely unaware that their son or daughter is using drugs until the child is arrested or a random drug test indicates abuse.

Does It Work?

Most teens appear to have little or no worries about being caught using drugs during a random test, often viewing positive results as a joke or even as a way to become more popular. Because random drug testing is so far limited only to sports, and effects only about 5% of schools, it’s impossible to tell whether these tests would be a deterrent in the general student population. Only widespread implementation would show whether drug testing would not only prevent drug use in school, but would help those using drugs get help.

The problem also lies in the attitude of the parents, who often prefer to turn a blind eye to the drug use of their children. Denying that a potential for addiction exists is simply placing their children at physical and mental risk.

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