Random Drug Testing May Increase Risks Among Student Athletes, Study Says -- Findings contradict White House publication touting testing’s “proven” benefits

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Portland, OR: Random drug testing programs that target high school athletes do not reduce self-reported drug use and may encourage greater risk-taking behaviors, according to findings published in the November issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Investigators from Oregon’s Health & Science University (OHSU) performed the two-year trial, which is the first-ever prospective randomized clinical trial to assess the deterrent effect of drug and alcohol testing among high school athletes. Researchers found that students who underwent random drug testing did not differ in their self-reported drug use compared to students at neighboring schools who were not enrolled in drug testing programs.

Investigators also determined that students subjected to random drug testing were more likely to report an "increase in some risk factors for future substance use," compared to students who attended schools without drug and alcohol testing.

"This was a state-of-the-art collection and testing program that exceeded those of typical school testing programs," lead investigator Linn Goldberg said in a OHSU press release. "If this did not show significant deterrent effects, less-sophisticated programs are not likely to be more successful."

A 2003 cross-sectional study of student drug testing previously reported, "Drug testing, as practiced in recent years in American secondary schools, does not prevent or inhibit student drug use." However, critics of the study argued that investigators included schools with dissimilar drug testing policies in their comparison.

Since 2005, the US Department of Education has appropriated over $10 million dollars to enact random student drug testing programs in public middle schools and high schools around the nation. The White House has repeatedly lauded the programs, claiming that "student drug testing has proven to be effective in schools that have tried it."

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, "Outcomes of a prospective trial of student-athlete drug testing: the SATURN study," appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health or online at: http://journals.elsevierhealth.com/periodicals/jah/current.

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