Drug abuse in schools is a challenging problem facing students, faculty, and families. The rise in drug testing is a reaction to the still-raging opioid epidemic and liberalized marijuana laws spreading across the country, according to health experts and educators. Alcohol and drug use by students is a serious health risk for the individual and the community. Schools have a significant role in the prevention and reduction of substance use by adolescents. School administrator’s mission is to ensure a safe, supportive, and healthy school environment where children can learn and reach their full potential. This includes taking measures to prevent tobacco, alcohol and drug use among students.
Why Schools Are Implementing a Drug Treating Program
The purpose of the drug testing program is to detect the teens who are abusing alcohol and drugs and to involve the student in a program to address issues arising as results of drug and alcohol abuse. Using illicit drugs not only interferes with a student’s ability to learn, but it can also disrupt the teaching environment, affecting other students as well. Drug testing among students can provide the following advantages:
- Educate students to adopt a healthier lifestyle
- Letting the students know the effects of using these illicit drugs will help to keep students to stay away from it.
- It allows an environment that is safe for the students to prosper in
- Drug testing provides the students with an excuse to its peers not to partake in drugs
Random Drug Testing Programs
The percentage of schools conducting random drug testing and/or reasonable suspicion/cause testing has increased significantly. According to a Federal Government survey, 38% of school districts had school drug testing. The testing program typically involves collecting urine or hair samples to test for drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, phencyclidine (PCP), and opioids (both heroin and prescription pain relievers).
In random testing, students are selected regardless of their drug use history and may include students required to do a drug test as a condition of participation in a sport, club or an extracurricular activity. An initial instant drug test can be used. If the test is positive, the Federal guidelines require a confirmation of the drug test in a lab.
In reasonable suspicion/cause testing, a student can be asked to provide urine or hair sample if the school suspects or has evidence that he or she is using drugs.
In such instances the school officials may make direct observations of the student showing physical symptoms of being under the influence or patterns of abnormal or erratic behavior.
Why do some schools conduct random drug tests?
Schools adopt random student drug testing to decrease drug misuse and illicit drug use among students. Random testing will serve as a deterrent and give students a reason to resist peer pressure to take drugs. In addition drug testing can identify teens whom have started using illicit drugs and would benefit from early intervention, as well as identify those who already have drug problems and need referral to treatment. Drug testing allows for early detection and intervention.
- Students have a built-in reason to resist peer pressure, a well-known reason why kids experiment with drugs
- Schools are fulfilling their duty in promoting a safe and drug free environment
- It increases chances for students to have a successful future
Is random drug testing of students legal?
In June 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court broadened the authority of public schools to test students for illegal drugs. The court ruled to allow random drug tests for all middle and high school students participating in competitive extracurricular activities. The ruling greatly expanded the scope of school drug testing, which previously had been allowed only for student athletes. School administrators need to determine if drug testing is legal in their state. A school or school district that is interested in adopting a student drug-testing program should seek legal expertise so that it complies with all federal, state, and local laws. Individual state constitutions may dictate different legal thresholds for allowing student drug testing.
If a student tests positive for drugs, what is the protocol for schools?
The primary purpose of drug testing is not to punish students who use illicit drugs but to prevent future illicit drug use and to help students already involved with drugs become drug-free. If a student tests positive for drugs, schools can respond to the individual situation. If a student tests positive for drug use but has not yet progressed to addiction, the school can require counseling and follow-up testing. For students diagnosed with addiction, parents and a school administrator can refer them to effective drug treatment programs to begin the recovery process.
The importance of testing teenagers
Teens’ brains and bodies are still developing, and this makes them especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of drug use. Most teens do not use illicit drugs, but for those who do, it can lead to a wide range of adverse effects on their behavior and health.
Short term: Even a single use of an intoxicating drug can affect a person’s judgment and decision-making, resulting in accidents, poor performance in school or sports activities, unplanned risky behavior, and overdose.
Long term: Repeated drug use can lead to serious problems, such as poor academic outcomes, mood changes (depending on the drug: depression, anxiety, paranoia, psychosis), and social or family problems caused or worsened by drugs.
Repeated drug use can also lead to addiction. Studies show that the earlier a teen begins using drugs, the more likely he or she will develop a substance use disorder (SUD). An SUD develops when continued drug use causes issues, such as health problems and failure to meet responsibilities at home, work, or school. An SUD can range from mild to severe, the most severe form being addiction. Conversely, if teens stay away from drugs while in high school, they are less likely to develop an SUD later in life.
What testing methods are available?
There are several testing methods currently available that use urine, hair, oral fluids, and sweat. These methods vary in cost, reliability, drugs detected, and detection period. Schools can determine their needs and choose the method that best suits their requirements, as long as the testing kits are from a reliable source. There are a variety of drug testing kits to detect the presence of drugs in the person’s body.
Detection timing of Types of Drugs Tests
Urine-tests for the presence of drug metabolites in urine for a few days after ingesting
Breath: breath-alcohol test determines the amount of alcohol currently in the bloodstream, or blood alcohol concentrations for a few hours after consumption
Blood-can test for current levels of drugs or alcohol in the bloodstream for a short window of time
Hair: provides a complete drug history for up to 90 days, not including current levels of impairment –longest testing window
Oral Fluids: Can detect drugs currently in the system by a swab of saliva from the inner cheek. The timeframe for detection of drugs is typically up to three days of drug ingestion.
A popular method of testing by schools is the urine test.
For testing students a particular protocol is followed to detect the presence of drug metabolites. If a positive result is detected, a GC-MS (analytical method used to identify different substances within a test sample) confirmation is required as well as a MRO (Medical Review Officer) to review the test. These Federal guidelines are in place to ensure accuracy and fairness in drug-testing programs.
Both the urine (certified lab collection) and hair tests include the GC-MS and MRO.
Another kind of minimally intrusive drug test is a hair test. Hair drug screening is constantly used to look for controlled substances, such as cannabis, amphetamines, opiates and PCP. Each hair follicle has a rich blood source that nurtures the cells accountable for hair development. When an individual is exposed to drugs, drugs or drug metabolites diffuse from the blood into the hair roots, so traces of them might be identified in the hair. Given that, hair growth is a continuous, long-lasting procedure. Hair drug screening is helpful in discovering substance abuse long after direct drug exposure.
The use of saliva as a testing matrix offers numerous benefits over urine testing.
- The test can be done at the school
- Save Time and educe errors. Quick results in 10 minutes!
- The cost of the test is less expensive than the older method of testing
- The process is less invasive
- The collective for collection can be fully observed without privacy concerns
- Tests can be administered without the need for specialized collection facilities
- The test is resistant to adulteration
- OralTox is FDA-cleared
- Optional lab testing available for positive drug results
- Easy to administer and interpret
- Proven accuracy, sensitivity, and reliability
- Accurate results without the need for manual interpretation or reporting
If a positive reading is detected, a confirmation testing of GC-MS and MOR are required.
Which drugs can be tested for?
Various testing methods normally test for a “panel” of five to 10 different drugs. A typical drug panel tests for marijuana, cocaine, opioids (including the prescription pain relievers OxyContin® and Vicodin®), amphetamines, and PCP. If a school has a particular problem with other drugs, such as 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), or appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs (steroids), they can include testing for these drugs as well. It is also possible to screen for synthetic cannabinoids, commonly known as Spice and K2.
How accurate are drug tests? Is there a possibility a test could give a false positive?
The accuracy of drug tests from a certified lab is very high, and confirmation tests can help to rule out any false positives. Usually, hair samples are divided so that if an initial test is positive, a confirmation test can be conducted. Federal guidelines are in place to ensure accuracy and fairness in drug-testing programs.
Can students manipulate the tests results?
Many students who use drugs are aware of techniques that supposedly detoxify their systems or mask their drug use. Internet sites give advice on how to dilute urine samples, and there are even companies that sell clean urine or products designed to distort test results. A number of techniques and products are focused on urine tests for marijuana, but masking products are becoming more available for tests on hair, oral fluids, and multiple drugs.
Most of these manipulative products do not work, are very costly, and are easily identified in the testing process. Moreover, even if the specific drug is successfully masked, the product itself can be detected, in which case the student using it would become an obvious candidate for additional screening and attention. In fact, some testing programs label a test positive if a masking product is detected.