Adolescence is the time of experimentation and when peer pressure is at its strongest. As parents it is understandable that we only want to keep our teens drug-free to the point of considering drug testing them at home. But the question is: should parents really have to do it?
Drug testing advocates firmly believe that teenagers are less likely to use and abuse banned substances if they know that their parents would subject them to a random drug test at home. But apart from prevention, drug testing allows for early intervention in teens who couldn’t resist the temptation of illicit drugs. As addiction specialists often say, it’s easier to treat substance abuse problems when early detection occurs.
However, drug testing isn’t always an easy policy to lay out in the household. Privacy concern is a big thing for any of us, and it is all the more a big deal for teenagers. Just raising the possibility of a drug test can already elicit angry protests from teens, and sometimes forcing such policy may result to animosity between the parent and the child. It’s also worth mentioning that teenagers these days have become smarter and more sophisticated in concealing drugs, not to mentioning beating drug screens.
Drug testing your kids is a matter of personal and individual decision. While it can be effective in preventing drug abuse, it can also pose a great challenge when dealing with uncooperative teenager. It could be worth trying, though, but it’s also important to educate your kids about the effects of substance abuse while they’re still young.
Drug testing may not be commonplace in middle school for the simple reason that drug abuse is not as rampant among middle school students than it is among high schoolers. But a new study suggests that random drug testing middle school students make them less likely to use drug in the future.
The study, conducted by The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) and Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, surveyed more than 3,500 students at New Jersey middle and high schools over a 7-year period. Participating students came from schools with and without random drug testing program.
According to the researchers, only about 1 percent of 8th graders reported ever using illicit drugs, and only about 14 percent reported drinking alcohol. That figure of 14 percent dropped to 6 percent among students who were tested for drugs and alcohol at some point.
“People expect students to say, ‘I’m not going to do drugs now because I might be tested tomorrow,’ but that’s just not how kids and teenagers think,” Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and principal investigator for the study, said in a news release. “What seems to be happening is that students who’ve been tested start to realize what a big deal it is, and stay away from drugs in the future.”
Nowadays, a growing number of high schools are implementing random drug testing for students involved in sports and other extra-curricular activities in the hope of fighting substance abuse in the campus. Although research on the effectiveness of such policy has been mixed, many school officials believe it would be effective in keeping children drug-free.
Angelo M. Valente, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, explained that the results of the latest survey “show that student drug testing changes the environment of the school community and show they serve as an effective prevention strategy for the abuse of drugs and alcohol in their future.”
St. Joseph’s Prep school is taking every measure to ensure its students are protected from substance abuse. Its most recent move is to subject students to a random hair drug test.
According to school officials, the new policy is not punitive in nature but to help students avoid drug use and the dangers associated with it. Beginning March, the school will randomly drug test 20 students a month and those who fail the drug test for the first time will receive counseling.
“We’ve been very transparent with what we’re doing – we want them to be successful, we want them to know we care, we want them to know that what we’re doing is what we feel is in their best interest,” Bill Gillespie, the school’s director of counseling, told CBS Philly.
While some students think the new policy is transgressing “some boundaries,” many parents have expressed their support for the program and the effort to help kids make the right choice in life.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a St. Joseph’s Prep alumnus, has likewise been supportive of the school’s drug testing program, saying some of today’s youth “may have challenges with drug issues,” and thus the need for proper guidance.
“Our hope is to educate them and treat them individually with respect,” says Principal Jason Zazyczny. “It’s a non-punitive policy, so we’re going to do everything possible before we would ever ask a student to withdraw.”
Students at North Fork School District may soon have to submit themselves for mandatory drug testing after the North Fork Board of Education approved during its October meeting the reinstatement of the policy.
According to Mount Vernon News, the district will follow the drug testing policy established in 2003. Students who are involved in any extra-curricular activity or those who drive vehicles on school grounds will be required to undergo random drug testing. The test will be performed periodically to give students a fair and equitable chance of being chosen each time selections are required.
The purpose of the program, which is expected to begin around December, is to ensure the health and safety of all students; undermine the effects of peer pressure; encourage students to participate in drug treatment; and to prevent the impact drugs and alcohol has on the learning environment.
It wasn’t clear yet whether the drug tests will be performed by a third party service provider or what kind of substances are going to be screened, but the board assures more details will be disseminated to parents through emails, coaches and parent advisories.
North Fork School District’s 2003 policy states: “The board realizes that a student’s participation in the district’s school sponsored extra-curricular program and student drivers, who use illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco, pose a threat to their own health and safety, as well as to that of other students.”
“The board also recognizes that the use of alcohol and illicit drugs by students is a national problem and, with the support from the U.S. Supreme Court, the North Fork Local School District will put a program of deterrence and intervention into effect as a pro-active approach to a truly safe and drug-free school.”
A private, Roman Catholic Jesuit high school in Palm Desert, California announced on Monday that it will enforce a mandatory drug testing program beginning spring.
An official from Xavier College Preparatory High School said the program will be voluntary when it begins in the spring but mandatory for admission starting next fall. And just like other schools with the same program, Xavier intends to implement drug testing for their students to help them stay clear of drugs.
“Our goal is prevention rather than punishment,” Dean of Students Mark Granger told The Desert Sun. “Ultimately, the goal of the program is to empower students to say no.”
School administrators denied claims that the drug testing policy is a response to the drug use problem at their school. Instead, they insisted the approach is aimed at encouraging students make healthier choices. Granger added that when students know any drug use in the past 90 days could show up on a drug test, they would have an incentive to stop using or to avoid drugs.
The Xavier test will look for illegal substances, such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and prescription drugs like Oxycodone and Vicodin. The test won’t be screening for alcohol or tobacco use.
Once the program is in place, about 10 to 15 percent of the student body will be subjected to random drug test every 100 days. The report says the school will be using hair drug testing method. Those who test positive will be required to take a drug test every 100 days, with the cost to be shouldered by the family for as long as the student attends the school.
Granger added that they have so far received overwhelming response from parents; one parent even saying “I send them to a private school because I want good, hard rules.”
Drug Free Charlotte County launched a new campaign that will help fight drug abuse in its community. It’s called VerifyTruth.
The movement encourages parents to drug test their kids at least five times a year to help them stay away from using marijuana. Parents can request for marijuana drug test kit, free of charge, which enables them to confirm whether or not their kids are telling the truth.
In a feature on Winknews.com, Drug Free Charlotte County Executive Director Amity Chandler says: “We’re not even saying to parents, do it, we’re saying pick up the test, talk to your teen about, and let them know the option of the test might come up if they’re breaking rules, when they start driving, when they get a job.”
Since June, VerifyTruth has already given 1,000 marijuana drug tests and most parents seem happy with the idea.
In its website, VerifyTruth laid out several reasons to use drug testing, one of them is, for parents to have the opportunity to intervene early if their teens begin experimenting on marijuana and other drugs.
According to a Teen Norms Survey done last year in Charlotte County, 39 percent of high school students said they experimented on marijuana at least once — a 4 percent increase since 2006. An increase in marijuana use was also observed for middle schoolers.
Chandler added that while Charlotte County kids are becoming more aware of the dangers of tobacco, the same cannot be said about marijuana. But through the new campaign, they are hoping to help parents guide their kids in avoiding peer pressure that could lead them to marijuana, as well as reduce the prevalence of drug use in the county.