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Effects Of Random Student Drug Testing Programs Limited, Education Department Study Says

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Alexandria, VA: Students subjected to random high school drug testing programs express the same willingness to use illicit drugs in the future as do students who are not exposed to testing, according to the findings of July study published by the US Department of Education.

Investigators assessed the self-reported usage of illicit substances among students in 36 high schools. Half of the schools assessed had administered federally funded high school drug testing programs, while half had not.

Researchers reported that the impact of the testing programs on student's self-reported use of illicit drug appeared to be limited and temporary.

The study found that students who engaged in extracurricular activities and were subjected to random testing were less likely than their peers at schools without drug testing to self-report having used drugs in the previous thirty days. However, the apparent deterrent effects were not long lasting, as students subjected to drug testing were no less likely than their non-exposed peers to admit that they intended to use illicit substances within the next 12 months.

Investigators also failed to find any 'spillover effects' attributable to random drug testing. Researchers reported that the overall rates of self-reported drug use among the entire student body were similar in schools with and without drug testing. (By law, only students that participate in athletics or other extracurricular activities may be subjected to suspicionless drug testing in public school.)

Authors concluded: "MRSDT (mandatory random student drug testing) had no statistically significant spillover effects on the retrospective substance use reported by students not participating in covered activities. For nonparticipants, there was no significant difference in self-reported substance use between the treatment and control schools. ... For intended substance use, MRSDT had no statistically significant impacts. ... Students in treatment schools were as likely as students in control schools to report that they 'definitely will' or 'probably will' use substances in the next 12 months."

A previous 2007 study of mandatory student drug testing programs published in the Journal of Adolescent Health reported that programs that target high school athletes do not reduce self-reported drug use and may encourage greater risk-taking behaviors.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, "The effectiveness of mandatory random student drug testing" is available online at: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104025/pdf/20104025.pdf.






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