Concerned with high rates of adolescent substance abuse, hundreds of middle schools and high schools have quietly begun testing some or all students for drugs, to the dismay of some health and addiction experts, says the Los Angeles Times. Fewer than 5 percent of high schools have such programs, although testing is common in schools throughout Texas, Florida, Kentucky, and parts of California. Nationwide, as many as 1,000 schools have established programs, says the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The testing is expected to grow. Federal funding for school drug testing increased 400 percent between 2003 and 2006. The Bush administration spent $8.6 million on such programs last year and has requested $17.9 million for fiscal year 2008. “This is the best new idea to reduce the onset of drug use,” says Dr. Robert DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health. NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, has criticized the testing. The American Academy of Pediatrics cautioned against random school-based drug testing until more research is completed. The groups say testing is not reliable enough, violates trust between adults and teens, and is not set up to deal effectively with students who have positive results. Although substance abuse among teens has dropped in the last decade, parents and school administrators still consider the rates unacceptably high. Just over 20 percent of eighth-graders and about half of all high school seniors say they have taken an illicit drug, say 2006 data from Monitoring the Future, the University of Michigan’s nationwide annual survey.