American Academy of Pediatrics Slams Random Student Drug Testing Policies — Tests are ineffective, not backed by physicians, and may push teens toward the use of dangerous drugs and alcohol

Elk Grove, IL:  Federally funded random student drug testing policies are neither safe nor effective and should not be utilized in public middle schools or high schools, according to recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse and Council on School Health. The Committee’s recommendations appear in the March 2007 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

“Currently, there is little evidence of the effectiveness of school-based drug testing in the scientific literature,” the Committee reported.  It noted that student athletes forced to submit to random drug testing “experienced an increase in known risk factors for drug use … and poorer attitudes toward school.” The Committee also reported that the largest observational study to assess the efficacy of student drug testing “found no association between school-based drug testing and students’ report of drug use.”

The Committee further determined that:
·      Standard drug tests do not detect many of the substances most frequently abused by adolescents, including alcohol, ecstasy (MDMA), or inhalants.
·      Mandatory drug testing may motivate adolescents to switch from using drugs with relatively low morbidity and mortality, such as marijuana, to those that pose greater danger (such as inhalants), but are undetectable by screening tests.
·      Widespread implementation of drug testing may also inadvertently encourage more students to abuse alcohol, which is associated with a greater number of adolescent deaths than any other illicit drug.
·      Few physicians support school-based testing of adolescents for drugs; a national survey of physicians found that 83 percent disagreed with drug testing in public schools.
·      Few schools possess the necessary funds or the expertise to properly implement drug tests or interpret their results correctly.

Since 2005, the US Department of Education has appropriated more than $20 million to public school districts to pay for random drug testing programs.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500.  Full text of the study, “Testing for drugs of abuse in children and adolescents: Addendum –­ Testing in schools and at home,” is available online at: http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/119/3/627.