An organization representing 62,000 pediatricians announced Monday that schools should not administer random drug tests to students “because of the lack of solid evidence for their effectiveness.”
“Other concerns regarding school-based drug testing include the potential for breach of privacy (e.g., when a student’s prescribed medications are identified on a drug test); detrimental consequences, such as suspension or expulsion for students who have positive drug test results; school dropout or increased truancy for students who fear they would fail a drug test; or increased use of substances not easily detectable on a drug screen.”
Although the Supreme Court has twice ruled that school-based random drug testing is legal, this coalition of pediatricians looks beyond the fear-mongering and ineffectiveness of the war on drugs to reason that these tests can do much more harm than good. For instance, in the event of a false positive, the student may suffer “unfair stigmatization.”
“Consequences related to false-positive drug test results (school suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities, interpersonal relationship stressors with parents, teachers, and school administrators) can have significant effects on a high school student.”
Another point made by the AAP statement is that students may be influenced to switch from marijuana (which can be detected by a test weeks after use) to a more harmful substance that isn’t as easily caught by a drug test.
“A student who switches to inhalant use to avoid detection risks permanent brain damage and sudden sniffing death. New herbal and synthetic products with psychoactive properties continuously enter the market, and these products are quickly touted via social media. In contrast, developing urine screening tests to detect these products often takes years.”
Furthermore, drug testing is expensive; one study found that schools can pay as much as $3,000 per positive test result.
“For the same cost and in lieu of a drug testing program, a moderately large school could hire a full-time counselor to serve the entire student body.”
Which brings us to the AAP’s recommendation: abandon drug testing and make on-campus counseling and treatment available to students in need to “serve a preventive role and increase the number of adolescents who have their substance use disorders addressed, and ultimately have a larger effect on reducing student drug use than drug testing alone.”
This AAP stance of ‘it’s broke, let’s fix it’ is becoming more common as marijuana education and legalization gains support and followers, and the infamously ineffective war on drugs becomes more widely accepted as the failure it is. Parents put the health and safety of their children in the hands of pediatricians when it comes to things far more dire than marijuana use, so let’s listen when they say that strong-arming and scaring kids with random drug testing will do more harm than help, and education, treatment, and counseling are the best forms of prevention. And possibly lollipops.