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.
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.”
We’ve described the risks of misusing cough and cold medicines to get high. Prescription cough medicines that contain promethazine (an antihistamine) or codeine are sometimes combined with soda and candy in a drink called “lean” or “sizzurp.”
Lean is sometimes used at electronic dance music (EDM) parties, and a recent study found that half of the references to codeine use on Instagram were about lean.
Some of lean’s effects come from misusing promethazine-codeine cough medicine in any form (syrup, gels, or capsules):
- Codeine is an opioid (like morphine, oxycodone, and heroin). Misusing codeine—and that includes using lean—can cause a person’s heart rate and breathing to slow down.
- High doses of codeine can lead to a deadly overdose, by stopping the heart and lungs from working completely.
- Mixing codeine with alcohol or other drugs significantly increases that risk.
Other effects can include nausea, dizziness, impaired vision, memory loss, hallucinations, and seizures. And misusing codeine over and over can lead to tolerance and addiction.
Despite some promising signs that traditional tobacco cigarette use is decreasing among teenagers, unacceptably high numbers of youth are vaping nicotine. NIDA’s 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey of eighth, 10th, and 12th graders show alarmingly high rates of e-cigarette use compared to just a year ago.
Reported past month nicotine vaping among teens in 2019:
1 in 10 8th graders
1 in 5 10th graders
1 in 4 12th graders
It is important for teens to know that most health concerns related to traditional tobacco cigarettes—addiction, lung disease, and effects on prenatal development—apply to vaping as well.