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Drug Testing in Schools is Ineffective

Update Date: Jan 13, 2014 02:02 PM EST
High School, Students
When the number of math and science classes increased to six, the dropout rate increased to 11.4 percent. (Photo : Wiki Commons)

In order to reduce the use of illegal substances, such as marijuana, some schools have enforced drug tests. Despite the schools' efforts to discourage adolescents from using drugs, a new study is reporting that drug testing is an ineffective way of deterring children from using drugs. The researchers stated that creating a positive climate on school grounds could be a more effective technique.

"Even though drug testing sounds good, based on the science, it's not working," said Daniel Romer, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center in Philadelphia. "So as a prevention effort, school drug testing is kind of wrong-headed."

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In this study, researchers interviewed 361 students. One third of the sample reported having a drug policy at school. According to the background information provided by the press release, roughly 20 percent of all high schools in the United States enforce drug testing. These programs often test students who plan on trying out for sports or clubs. Some schools target specific students that they believe are at risk of abusing drugs.

Based on the initial interviews that asked students about their schools' environment, the researchers discovered that a positive climate was beneficial. A positive environment was understood as one that had clear rules and promoted good relationships between teachers and students. Students from schools with a positive climate were roughly 20 percent less likely to try marijuana. These students were 15 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes.

Despite these findings, the researchers reported that a positive climate did not influence students' alcohol intake. In the second interview, the researchers found that roughly two-thirds of the students stated that they tried alcohol. Alcohol consumption occurred independent to the schools' drug policy and environment.

"The whole culture uses alcohol," Romer said. "And you're fighting something that has widespread marketing behind it. It's a real problem...and right now we're not doing enough to address it."

Aside from the influences of the school's environment, the researchers reported that they did not find any evidence that drug testing works in preventing students from trying drugs. The researchers stated that the students who attended schools with drug testing were no less likely to try marijuana or cigarettes than other students who went to schools without drug testing.

The results were published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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