Drug addiction is a psychological and physical dependency of an individual to drugs. It is referred to as a disease of the brain wherein its normal functioning is affected by constant use of illicit substances or narcotic drugs supposedly intended to help patients suffering from chronic pain due to cancer and other medical conditions.
Substance abuse is one huge problem that the world is facing. Despite implementing strict regulations and widespread monitoring of these illicit drugs, drug users are able to have access to them and continuously engage with drug use.
The major concern now is how students as young as 12 years old could already be hooked with these illicit substances.
Drug use in students has become a steep struggle among the different schools across the U.S. This problem has caused so many students to skip school and get involved with drug-related incidents which most often lead to arrests, accidents, and death.
Why is it Important to Drug Test in Schools?
While some may see it as an invasion of privacy and loss of trust, drug testing is a precautionary measure to ensure that a school is a safe place for students to be in. The school’s role is not merely being an anchor towards education, but also a second home which will protect students from harm and provide them with a safe and drug-free learning environment.
Random drug testing can be a means of opening doors to provide help to those who might already be involved in drug use. Early intervention of drug use would mean providing treatment early on.
It is a known fact that so many young students have become drug users. Some of the main causes of drug use in students include the following:
- Peer pressure
- Escape from problem
- Psychological trauma
- Exposure to parents with a history of drug addiction
- Severe trauma or injury
- Mental condition
Drug Abuse Among High School Students
Results of the Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey of drug use and attitudes among different school levels – particularly 8th, 10th and 12th graders – is encouraging, as the rate of drug use has been declining compared to the previous years.
A school drug testing program has two purposes: to identify the students who are involved in illegal drug use and to deter substance and drug abuse among students.
Usage rates of the following substances are at their lowest since the survey started:
The following substances were found to have a dramatic decline in use for the past 5 years among the 8th-10thgraders:
- Synthetic cannabinoids
- Prescription opioids
- Over-the-counter cough and cold medications
Marijuana use declined among 8th and 10th graders despite developments in state marijuana laws. Daily use of marijuana among 8th graders declined compared to 2015, from about 1.1% to 0.7%.
The said survey also showed that there is a higher rate of marijuana use among 12th graders in states with medical marijuana laws compared to states without them.
Meanwhile, opioid misuse continued to decline among high school students despite the rise of prescription abuse among adults.
How Drugs Affect The Brain
Addictive substances can affect behavior and alter areas of the brain that are associated with motivation, memory and reward, namely:
- Basal Forebrain
- Anterior Cingulate Cortex
- Nucleus Accumbens
Due to the psychological nature of addiction, it can be very difficult to overcome addiction. When a drug user ceases to use the illicit substances, any of the following withdrawal symptoms steps may occur:
- Restlessness or insomnia
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Lack of or increased appetite
- Sweating and/or hot flushes
- Emotional instability
Common Drug Testing Methods
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) specifies testing programs that will be able to detect the five common drugs:
- Cannabinoids (marijuana)
- Cocaine (cocaine, crack)
- Amphetamines (amphetamines, methamphetamines)
- Opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
There are five primary types of drug tests, namely:
This is the least expensive of all drug tests. The samples are often temperature tested to ensure its integrity. The only downfall of this type of test is that it cannot detect substance abuse if the individual has abstained for at least a day prior to collection of urine.
This is more expensive than urine testing but cheaper than hair or blood testing. It is considered a relatively non-intrusive method of drug testing. This may be easier to administer but will still require a laboratory to properly process to ensure accuracy.
Drug use can be detected within the past few days. This is more reliable for detection of methamphetamine and opiates and is less reliable for THC or cannabinoids.
This is more expensive than urine and saliva testing. Just like the saliva test, the hair test is non-intrusive. It can be able to detect drug use over a long period of time. The sample hair length should at least be 1.5 inches long and a diameter of a pencil stroke.
Blood Drug Tests
This is the most expensive method of testing and is considered to be the most intrusive, but it’s also the most accurate method of the bunch. While this can be the most helpful of all drug tests, it is not common as urine test because of its high cost.
Sweat Patch Drug Test
This type of test requires the person to wear a patch for an extended period of time. Its accuracy is questionable because for some reason the surface contamination is possible and may cause a false reading.
Reasons for Drug Testing in Schools
Not everyone may be in favor of taking this test, primarily on the grounds of invasion of privacy. However, drug testing among students can provide the following advantages:
Educate students to adopt a healthier lifestyle
Letting the students know the effect of using these illicit drugs will help students to stay away from it. Along with drug testing is an awareness program that will help educate the students about the ill effects of these illegal substances.
Provides manpower to provide a drug-free learning environment
It allows an environment that is safe for the students to stay in.
Eliminate influence and peer pressure to use drugs
It may not be inevitable that some teens may influence others to try using drugs. Teenagers, for instance, are in the stage of trying to discover things around them. With student drug testing, teens may think twice about trying out illicit substances.
Further protection and safeguard schools
Students who may be involved with drugs may also be involved with crimes within the campus and may perform questionable activities that can affect the whole campus.
Pursuance of reach out activities and programs to victims of drug abuse
There is a continuous educational program that lets all the students get involved in fighting drugs and in keeping themselves busy with worthwhile activities.
Discovery of drug offenders that may lead to drug smuggling
Students who are involved with drug use may be able to pinpoint who might be selling drugs on campus.
Proper identification of the commonly used drugs
A school drug testing program lets students become aware of what they should stay away from.
All in all, the main advantage of student drug testing is that those who may already be involved will have the opportunity to change their ways and undergo the necessary treatment.
Do Schools Have the Right to Drug Test Students?
On the flip side, people who are not in favor of random drug testing in school say the following drawbacks:
- Some student drug users may be excelling in school. Protesters ask why a student should be punished for an activity that is done outside of the campus (assuming that taking of drugs is not performed within the school premises).
- They see it as an invasive attack on the right of privacy. This is not only referring to the rights of the students but as well as the right of privacy of parents.
- Drug testing means an additional cost which could not be helpful to school districts who already struggling with their school budget.
Anyone who is randomly tested for drugs is ensured of confidentiality. The students who are found to be positive with drug use will not be listed or be publicized. Drug testing is not a means of shaming involved students, but rather a step in extending them help in order to cope with their normal lives.
Schools may provide assistance to those students who are found out to be positive with drugs are given a second chance in life by being admitted to rehabilitation centers before the addiction gets worse.
Legal Side of Drug Testing
School drug testing is legal under federal law. It is very important to be able to help treat students who are into illegal drug use and to subject those who are notorious into reasonable penalties.
For every situation, there are some good and bad points. And while it can be a cause for a certain law to not easily be implemented, people should be able to see the advantages more than the disadvantages. Providing a drug-free environment is a must. It ensures everyone to be free from drug-related incidents and keeps the students away from destroying their lives.
The survey results which stated the decline of drug abuse among young students is a good sign that slowly, these children are taking care of themselves. It may not be possible to completely eliminate drugs most especially among adults.
A thorough educational program should be implemented in every school to help children become more aware of the ill effects of the illegal substances.
Apart from the education programs that the school should provide, parents should continuously nurture a good relationship with their children. Parents should always have quality time spent with the kids so that they would be able to know what is going on with the lives of each of their children. When parents give more attention to their children, the children are less likely to commit themselves to unlawful activities.
Random Drug Testing for Teachers
Drug testing is becoming standard in many industries (sports players are a relatively recent example of this) as well as among high school students. As a result, even jobs that had previously been unlikely to have to deal with drug testing are now being considered for it. The debate over testing teachers has been brought up on and off over the last several years since drug testing has begun in students the interest in testing teachers has arisen again. While there are some schools that test teachers they are by and large a relatively small section of the many schools in the US. This means that a student is far more likely to be required to undergo testing than teachers.
Why is There Such a Debate?
The highest concern about testing teachers is whether or not their right to privacy might be being violated unjustly. Why test so many if only a small percentage actually abuse drugs? After all the recent drug testing conducted for steroid use in Texas proved that a very small percentage of students actually abused steroids, meaning that many of those who were being tested had no reason to be tested. This, in essence, means that a lot of funding was used to conduct testing without much real cause.
In response to this many parents state that drug testing should be done to verify their children aren’t being endangered. Even the smallest chance that a teacher might be under the influence seems too much of a risk and should be prevented.
To be fair there have been incidents that seem to prove that drug testing could be a warranted measure. There have been several cases where teachers were proven to be abusing drugs ( in states like Hawaii and West Virginia for example) and subsequently arrested.
How Would Drug Testing Help?
The overall goal seems to be to remove any undesired drug use from the school. By randomly testing the faculty it’s hoped that the teachers who would be caught in the act could then be removed from the school before their use caused any problems for the students or other faculty members. The only real question here is would it truly be worth it? While it would have a very good chance of rooting out those teachers that were abusing drugs, just how many of them would there be? If there were about 140 tests done and out of those tested only about 4 came back positive, how much of an investment would that be for minimal return? While it could be argued that drug testing costs less than it did when it became available and that other jobs (in particular those regulated by the Department of Transportation) have done so for several years it still seems quite a cost to root out so few.
Is this the best regulation to pursue at a time when integral programs like music and art are being cut down or out of schools? Have we forgotten that many teachers are providing items for their students out of dwindling salaries because the school will not or cannot provide them out of theirs?
Different Examples of High School Random Drug & Steroid Testing Programs
As higher rates of prescription drug and steroid abuse make headlines across the country, more and more high schools develop random screening programs to prevent student drug abuse. Abuse of prescription and illegal street drugs has gone up in recent years, and out of all age groups, teenagers are most likely to engage in substance abuse. Steroids are also making the news and for good reason. Several professional athletes have checked positive as steroid users raising concern that teens (whose use up until now was almost wholly unnoticed or ignored) might be using the drugs to achieve athletic success just as their heroes had been.
So How Do Schools Go About Testing High Schoolers?
• Athletes are chosen at random for testing.
• They are notified right before a test is going to be done and are not given any prior notification.
• Refusal to take the test results in the same penalties as having a positive test result.
• The sample is taken by an adult testing crew member of the same sex. In order to prevent tampering, no one else is allowed into the restroom at the time of testing.
• All athletes must submit 90 ml of urine for testing which has the correct ph and temperature.
• If the student isn’t able to provide this amount they will be asked to discard the specimen and will have to stay in the testing are until they have submitted an appropriate testing sample.
• It takes about 7-10 days for results to return. 7 for negative and 10 for positive (the sample is retested to verify the results are accurate).
• Students who receive a positive result must be suspended for 30 days from athletic activities.
• In order to rejoin athletic activity, they will have to submit another urine screen which is negative for steroids.
• Students ages 12-17 are asked to give information about testing to their parents.
• If their parents (or in the case of students who are 18 the students themselves) consent to be tested, they are added to a list of students that will be used for testing.
• Those who are tested are chosen at random over the course of the school year.
• The student must then proceed to the drug testing area and give a sample.
• Testing results go directly to the parent and are not revealed to the faculty.
• Most school districts pay for the test but at some schools, the parents must pay for the testing to be done.
• Positive results are verified with the student and are used to encourage the student to get counseling and/or treatment to end the substance abuse.
• These results are used to help students who might otherwise never have their drug problems noticed to get treated before it becomes serious and potentially life-long addiction to drugs.
The clearest difference between steroid testing and drug testing for school students is that drug testing is kept confidential while steroid abuse is an offense that is punished by the school.
How Does Random Drug Testing Work in Schools?
In the last five years, drug testing has become more and more prevalent in schools. Concern that athletes are abusing steroids for athletic gain, and that regular students might be abusing prescription and illegal drugs without their parents' knowledge has brought the issue to greater focus than it had been in even the late 90s when drugs like black tar heroin were a serious problem among teens. Intended as a substance abuse prevention method, the practice has come under some fire from parents and students who feel it invades their privacy and treats all students as if they are guilty of abuse. However rising problems with prescription drug abuse among teens had largely overridden these concerns for the school districts that have taken to the practice.
How Does it Work?
This form of testing is intended to help the hidden user rather than the obvious one. The goal is to find out which students are using without anyone’s knowledge and offer them counseling to remove the substance abuse from their lives before it can cause them serious and permanent damage.
Here’s how it works:
• Parents must submit a signed consent form for their child to be part of the testing program.
• Students who take part must be between the ages of 12 and 17 or if they are 18 must voluntarily sign themselves up.
• Students are chosen at random for testing during the course of the school year.
• This testing takes place at both Junior and Senior High Schools.
• Urine testing is used to get all test results.
• The results are sent to the student’s parents and aren’t available to the school or faculty. These results are kept confidential and are most often handled by an outside agency hired by the school for this purpose.
• If the parents would like they can inquire about counseling and other services referred by the district’s guidance office.
• Parents don’t have to pay for the drug tests; these are paid for by the school district.
• There are only so many tests performed each school year to preserve random results but it is possible that a child enrolled in the program may undergo more than one test in that time.
• These results are destroyed after 2 years have passed to protect the privacy and confidentiality rights of the student and their parents.
Does it Work?
While concerns remain over the confidentiality of these programs overall the answer is that yes they do work. Many drug users begin as casual users in their teenage and young adult years. For this reason, focus on stopping the use before it becomes a problem is key. Thanks to drug testing programs in several U.S. schools the drug abuse levels among teens have decreased significantly. In one New Jersey school where testing occurred, use of cocaine among 18-year-olds went from 13% down to 4% within a two-year span. If this reduction can be consistently maintained drug testing could prove to be a valuable asset to drug prevention.
Drug Abuse by Youth Gangs in Schools
One of the scariest things for parents is that their children might use alcohol or drugs. Some parents want to believe their children have never tried drugs and won’t ever develop a drug problem. But the alarming truth is children are being exposed to drugs even at young ages, even at school. According to a 2010 survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, more than a quarter of public middle and high school students say both gangs and drugs are present at their campuses.
Facts About Drug Abuse and Youth Gangs in School
Children are pressured to use drugs:
- One in four children in 4th grade says there is peer pressure to use marijuana.
- Almost half of 6th graders report peer pressure to drink alcohol.
- Almost half of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders say they feel pressured to smoke cigarettes.
- One in four children in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades feels pressured to use crack/cocaine.
Children use drugs to fit in:
- Four in 10 children in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades say they would begin using alcohol to fit in and feel older.
- Four in 10 children in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades say they would use crack/cocaine to fit in and feel older.
Some children already use drugs:
- 2% of all 12th graders get high on marijuana every day.
- 13% of 8th graders and 30% of seniors had binged on alcohol (consumed five or more drinks in a row) in the two weeks just before the survey.
Drugs are available to children:
- A recent study revealed that half of 11th and 12th graders said it would be easy to buy drugs at school.
- 80% of all 12th graders say it would be easy to get marijuana.
Studies show that the younger a child is when he or she first uses alcohol, marijuana, or cigarettes, the more likely it is the child will have some type of drug abuse problem later in life.
Gangs are very prevalent in schools:
- More than one-third (37%) of the students surveyed in the 1995 School Crime Supplements (SCS) reported the presence of gangs in their schools.
- Most gangs that students see at school are actively involved in criminal activity, with two-thirds involved in one or more of the following types of criminal acts: violence, drug sales, and carrying guns.
- The most criminally active gangs were reported by 15 to 17-year-old students of either gender.
As the above data illustrates, the problem of youth gangs in schools demands our attention. The Bulletin concludes that existing school security measures are not sufficient; additional interventions are needed to combat gangs in schools.
Findings of the 1996 National Youth Gang Survey, conducted by the National Youth Gang Center, which updates and expands the 1995 survey, shows results that are based on a sample of more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies and are nationally representative.
The survey results indicate that the youth gang problem is substantial and affects communities of all types. An estimated 30,818 gangs, with 846,428 members, were active in 4,824 jurisdictions during 1996. The report provides analysis and statistics on number, types, and locations of gangs; member demographics (age, sex, and race/ethnicity); and gang involvement in crime and drugs.