Several school managements have begun implementing drug testing in schools. The idea behind conducting these tests is to prevent and deal with illicit usage of drugs among school kids. School authorities and drug test advocates believe that this will deter drug use, provide proof where drug use is suspected, and also collect final proof when expulsion is being considered. It is believed that drug testing is an effective tool and platform, to prescribe appropriate treatment options for young people struggling with pre-existing drug issues. Thus, various schools have adopted this method to convey the anti-drug message.
Has Random Drug Testing Helped?
The Office of National Drug Control Policy in the US, affirms that random drug testing in schools has led to reduction in drug use, especially among adolescents. A significant reduction was seen in cigarette smoking among 13-year-olds, with the percentage falling from 35.9% to 24.4%. Moreover, reduction from 39.9% to 30% of alcohol use and 18.5% to 11.8% of cannabis use was reported among students. In a survey conducted in 2002-2003 in Britain, it was found that 36% of those within the 16 to 50 year range have used one or more illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, etc., in their lifetime. It was also reported that over 3 million people take cannabis (the most popular drug) every year.
Who Conducts These Tests?
Typically, contracted medical professionals carry out these drug tests. They randomly select students from the database and on the day of testing come on campus to conduct them. The student is called out of the class and asked to give the required sample for the drug tests. Tests are conducted using urine, saliva, blood, hair, sweat, or breath samples.
The sample collected is analyzed and tested for certain drugs. Each sample determines different results for example, a hair sample tests for drug usage within the past 12 weeks or longer. The time duration can vary from 7-100 days depending on the length of the hair sample. In case of urine sample tests, drug usage within the previous 1-3 days can be determined. Saliva samples and sweat samples detect drug use within 1-36 hours and 1-14 days respectively.
How Accurate Are They?
Each of these methods have their drawbacks. For example, urine test is cheap and capable of detecting most drugs of misuse, however, must be carried out under strict observation to prevent the children from adulterating the samples. This can be embarrassing for the children. Students are often given privacy while giving urine samples, however, there is the risk of adulteration.
Hair testing on the other hand, is expensive and provides information regarding drug use over the previous weeks. This test cannot detect recent drug usage. However, this test can be quite discriminatory as dark-haired people are prone to test positive as compared to blonds. Moreover, passive exposure to drugs can also yield positive tests.
The saliva testing method is more reliable, simply because the sample is obtained under observation, and cannot be adulterated. However, saliva tests cannot detect cannabis use, because they have a very short detection window.
Sweat testing is the most expensive method of testing, that calls for specialist laboratory services for analyzing it. While its accuracy levels are good, the sample can be contaminated by passive exposure to drugs.
Limitations of Random Drug Testing
Drug testing procedure is a complex one, and encounters various limitations. Since the tests show results for only certain drugs, the presence of a different drug will go undetected. Moreover, there are ample ways students can cheat the tests. Adulterated samples affect the effectiveness of the test. Over 9,00,000 hits in less than a second were registered in Google search for 'passing a drug test'. This clearly implies how many people are desperately looking for means to cheat on the drug test.
The results of the drug tests are intimated to the school authorities, parents, and the students. Students with positive results are directed for counseling. Drug addiction can have serious consequences on their lives, thus if they are addicted to drugs they need rehabilitation. Mostly the extracurricular activities and privileges of such students are withdrawn. Drug testing in high schools will make school campuses a safer place, and will stop schools from being platforms for drug addiction.