Educators influence kids the most. That is why our resource library is also open for educators. We will provide you with the latest science-based information about the effects and consequences of drug abuse.

drug testing

How do some schools conduct drug testing?

Following models established in the workplace, some schools conduct random drug testing and/or reasonable suspicion/cause testing. This usually involves collecting urine 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 an extracurricular activity. In reasonable suspicion/cause testing, a student can be asked to provide a urine sample if the school suspects or has evidence that he or she is using drugs, such as:

  • school officials making direct observations
  • 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. First, they hope random testing will serve as a deterrent and give students a reason to resist peer pressure to take drugs. Secondly, drug testing can identify teens who 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. 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.

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.

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Surge of teen vaping levels off

Findings released today from the most recent Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of substance use behaviors and related attitudes among teens in the United States indicate that levels of nicotine and marijuana vaping did not increase from 2019 to early 2020, although they remain high. The annual MTF survey is conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor, and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

In the four years since the survey began including questions on nicotine and marijuana vaping, use of these substances among teens have increased to markedly high levels. From 2017 to 2019, the percentage of teenagers who said they vaped nicotine in the past 12 months roughly doubled for eighth graders from 7.5% to 16.5%, for 10th graders from 15.8% to 30.7%, and for 12th graders from 18.8% to 35.3%. In 2020, the rates held steady at a respective 16.6%, 30.7%, and 34.5%.

“The rapid rise of teen nicotine vaping in recent years has been unprecedented and deeply concerning since we know that nicotine is highly addictive and can be delivered at high doses by vaping devices, which may also contain other toxic chemicals that may be harmful when inhaled,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “It is encouraging to see a leveling off of this trend though the rates still remain very high.”

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Teen Depression

The Basics

If your child is between ages 12 and 18, ask the doctor about screening (testing) for depression – even if you don’t see signs of a problem.

Why do I need to get my teen screened for depression?
Depression can be serious, and many teens with depression don’t get the help they need.

The good news is that depression can be treated with counseling, medicine, or a combination of both. When you ask your child’s doctor about screening for depression, find out what services are available in case your teen needs follow-up care.

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medical marijuana

The marijuana plant has chemicals that can help with some health problems. More states are making it legal to use the plant as medicine for certain illnesses. But there isn’t enough research to show that the whole plant works to treat or cure these conditions. Also, the U.S. government still doesn’t think of marijuana as medicine, so it’s still illegal at the national level.

A few medicines have been made as pills and oils. These medicines have chemicals that are like the ones in the marijuana plant, but are not the same type that people usually smoke. They can:

  • treat nausea if you have cancer
  • make you hungry if you have AIDS and don’t feel like eating

Smoking medical marijuana can also hurt your lungs. These and other effects on the brain and body could make marijuana medicine more harmful than helpful.

Another problem with marijuana as a medicine is that the ingredients aren’t exactly the same from plant to plant. There’s no way to know what you’re getting.

Scientists are trying to find ways to make safe medicines from marijuana.

The NIDA Blog Team

A lot of things can increase the risk that a teen will have a problem with drugs. These risk factors include difficulties in school, problems making friends, even the person’s biology.

Another risk factor is living with a parent who uses drugs. A recent study offers a reminder that avoiding drug use is an important choice for the entire family.

A connection…
The study (co-authored by Dr. Wilson Compton here at NIDA) found that if a parent uses marijuana (weed), that can increase the risk that their kids living in the same household will use drugs.

Specifically, teens and young adults who lived with a parent who used marijuana were more likely to use marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, and to misuse opioids, than were those living in households where a parent did not use marijuana.

The connection existed even if the parent(s) didn’t use marijuana often, and even if they had only used it in the past.

…not a cause
When thinking about scientific studies, it’s important to understand what their findings don’t mean. In this case, the findings don’t mean that if a parent uses marijuana, their teen or young adult will definitely use marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, or will definitely misuse opioids.

Think of all those risk factors. Parents’ drug use is another one of them, and none of the factors causes teens to use drugs—they just increase the risk that they will.

The study does note that screening family members for substance use and counseling parents on the risks of using drugs may be helpful in preventing the cycle of drug use in families.

We also shouldn’t interpret the study findings as blaming parents if their kids use drugs. Parents can set an example, and while the study suggests that the example is important, choosing to use drugs the first time is just that: a choice.

Your call
For teens, it’s worth thinking about that choice, because, for some people, choosing to use drugs can lead to addiction, where they can’t stop using drugs even though it’s damaging their life.

As we said, this study is a reminder that everybody has a role in reducing the risk that someone in their household will use drugs. But it’s also a reminder that you have the power to make your own decisions about your health. As you become an adult, you’ll have to choose your own path.