Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Drug Testing Is Out, and Clear Boundaries and Respect Are In

Over the past couple years, there has been much debate about mandatory drug testing among adolescents and teens in public schools. Some have attempted to require that all would-be athletes be tested for drugs prior to trying out for different teams while others have implemented random drug testing for all students. Many parents have rebelled, pulling their children out of school, lobbying the administration to change their policies, and refusing to allow their children to participate in the drug testing and/or the activities that are only allowed after their use.

A new study supports the parents in this argument. Published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers found that drug tests in school do little to stop kids from smoking marijuana. Conversely, they found that a positive school environment did promote lower drug use among students according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Finding What Works

Though about 20 percent of high schools in the United States utilize drug testing with students, the fact is that there is little scientific evidence to support its viability as a prevention effort. In fact, after following student participants for a year at schools where drug testing was in use, it was found that they were no less likely to abuse marijuana than students at schools that did not drug test.

Daniel Romer at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center was one of the authors on the study. He said, “Even though drug testing sounds good, based on the science, it’s not working.”

So what does work? Researchers found that schools that prioritized the following were more likely to have lower rates of drug abuse among students:

  • Respectful treatment of one another, oneself, and teachers
  • Clear rules and boundaries for behavior

Limitations on School Influence

Unfortunately, although a positive environment was shown to limit the use of marijuana among students, it didn’t have the same impact on alcohol use. Perhaps its uncontested legal status and use by almost everyone don’t put it in the same light as marijuana and other drugs in the eyes of teens.

Said Romer, “The whole culture uses alcohol. And you’re fighting something that has widespread marketing behind it.”

Parents Can and Should Take Action

Parents can also impact their children’s behavior by being good role models, implementing and following through on clear rules and boundaries, and refusing to stand idly by when drug or alcohol abuse becomes an issue.

If your son is struggling due to substance abuse, a teen-specific treatment and intervention program may be the right choice. Contact us at Muir Wood today to learn more.