Researcher have found that high school drug tests are ineffective, whereas a positive climate in the school can help reduce the early adoption of marijuana and tobacco. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo
High school drug tests have not deterred students from smoking tobacco and marijuana or from drinking alcohol, but a positive school environment can help deter smoking.
Nearly 20 percent of U.S. high schools drug test their students as a deterrent, but this doesn't seem to be decreasing the early use of marijuana or alcohol, according to new research.
The study, conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, did find that schools with a positive environment reported lower rates of students starting to smoke and drink and that the increase in smoking didn't rise much over a year.
“The bad news is that a policy of drug testing has no effect on students starting to use alcohol,
cigarettes or marijuana,” said study co-author Dan Romer.
The study looked at 361 students aged 14 to 18 who were interviewed by phone as part of the National Annenberg Survey of Youth.
Of those, 34 percent said their schools had drug testing policies and 43 percent their schools had a positive climate.
Drug testing was found to be more prevalent in rural schools, and three quarters of private school students said that their school had a positive climate.
In followup interviews a year later, two-thirds of the students had consumed alcohol. Students in schools with positive climates were 15 percent less likely to start smoking cigarettes and 20 percent less like to start smoking marijuana.
According to the research, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, a positive school climate is described as a caring and respectful environment where students know that the school has clearly defined rules and where they have a sense of connectedness with the faculty and another students.
Neither drug testing nor a positive climate had any effect on the consumption of alcohol. Researchers attribute this to drinking being looked upon by the youth as “normative” behavior and “associated with adjustment in the youth population.”
They also concluded that drug testing "is a relatively ineffective drug-prevention policy."
[University of Pennsylvania]