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Drug Testing in Schools Pros and Cons List

Drug testing in schools is a hotly debated issue. The only issue debated more fiercely and by more people across the country is perhaps the second amendment or the gun laws in our country. Drug testing in schools cannot be looked at through any one prism. There are different facets that should be taken into consideration. For instance, there is a legal perspective and then there is an ethical perspective. Efficiency of drug tests is another issue that must be factored in while debating the pros and cons of drug testing in schools. On a broader note, everyone will agree that drug abuse or even the first time consumption of drugs by any child or student should be prevented at all costs and any measure that can avert the same will be worthwhile. However, one must take a more nuanced stand on drug testing in schools based on its real pros and cons.

List of Pros of Drug Testing in Schools

1. Detection and Deterrence
Drug and alcohol test, commonly referred to as DAT, is the only surefire way to know if a child or an adult student is consuming any drug and indulging in alcohol abuse. Substance abuse is a real threat and drug testing is a viable way to detect that. Those who test positive can be counseled, penalties may be levied and appropriate measures can be taken by the school in conjunction with the parents to ensure the kids do not continue to consume any kind of drug. This detection is crucial if kids indulging in substance abuse have to be identified. The detection is also the first step to create any kind of deterrence. If kids are never tested for drug or substance abuse and they keep consuming their preferred drug, then nothing can stop them from becoming addicts. While detection and the subsequent penalties or any form of acceptable punishment as well as counseling would not guarantee permanent deterrence, it is a step forward and a definitive attempt to deal with the drug problem.

2. Timely Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation has helped millions of people over the years to overcome their addictions, be it drugs or alcohol among other substances. Most people that recover after a rehabilitation and those who opt for it in the first place do so after years of substance abuse. It is not desirable for kids to become addicts and then to seek rehabilitation. It is much better to detect kids the first time or in the first few attempts at consuming drugs or indulging in alcohol abuse and recommending them for rehabilitation. Such timely rehabilitation will be more effective because the kids would not be as helplessly addicted as grownups with years of substance abuse and it will help prevent serious health problems in the future.

3. Pragmatic Approach
Drug testing in schools is a pragmatic approach. It is much better to test kids and be sure of their consumption of drugs or alcohol than to blindly suspect every student in a school. Random checks of baggage or being judgmental and observing unconventional behavioral traits are not pragmatic or even ethically acceptable ways to look for students with a drug problem. Drug and alcohol testing is technical. There are two tests. One is for detection and the second is for confirmation. Once a student tests positive with portable kits, a gas chromatography or mass spectroscopy is conducted and that confirms if the student has indeed consumed any banned drug or alcohol. Drug testing in schools will lead to focus on those who are actually consuming drugs instead of generalization.

4. Curing an Addiction
It is possible a child or several kids in a school are addicted to drugs. They may even start to share or sell drugs. The only way to initiate any corrective action begins with drug testing. Once kids are detected and deterred, penalized or recommended for rehabilitation, the students can be cured and they can resume a normal life. It is like a second chance to having a healthy and productive life at school just like any other child. The result of drug testing is confidential. The identity or the whereabouts of any student who tested positive is not shared with media or with the other students at school. The whole process is discreet and a student will not be made to feel ashamed, embarrassed or humiliated in any way. Even the drug testing process can be kept confidential by school authorities.

5. Definitive Action, Sans False Accusation
Misinformation, biased perceptions and judgmental opinions are rampant almost everywhere. Schools cannot be expected to be different. Drug testing is better than teachers or students accusing some kids of being drug addicts or substance abusers. Drug testing in school is legal according to state and federal laws. Unscheduled drug testing in schools can actually help in remedying the drug menace.

List of Cons of Drug Testing in Schools

1. Failed Deterrence
There are reasons to believe that drug testing in schools and subsequent penalties or rehabilitation do not always act as deterrence and don’t have the desired effect in every case. The easy availability of drugs remains a problem. Many teenagers who test positive and are subjected to the liabilities or corrective measures often end up becoming conscious of the random drug testing in school and plan their consumption accordingly. Hence, drug testing in schools doesn’t actually guarantee that a student will not consume drug or that one is not indulging in any kind of substance abuse.

2. False, Inconclusive or Misleading Findings
At times, drug testing kits show a false positive. Kits can malfunction, there can be a number of things going wrong with or during the test and even those who study the findings to draw an inference may be wrong. In addition to obviously false findings, there can be misleading test results in some cases and at times the findings may be inconclusive. For instance, presence of drug metabolites doesn’t always imply a student has consumed a drug. Likewise, the absence of drug metabolite doesn’t always mean a student has not consumed any drug. False positives are quite common and for no person’s fault really. Decongestants that can be bought over the counter, hence without prescription, can leave amphetamine traces in the body that will lead to a positive during drug testing in schools. Codeine can be detected and interpreted as traces of heroin. Foods containing poppy seeds or its extracts can leave traces that will lead to a positive result for opiates. Such wrong results can be humiliating for a student and it doesn’t help the cause of the larger fight against drug use.

3. Privacy & Public Humiliation
Drug testing doesn’t actually invade anyone’s privacy but it can be perceived as such. Moreover, random inspection of bags and other possessions of students, checking of lockers and going through private stuff of students are an invasion of privacy. It is a fine line that one must tread while conducting drug testing and initiating associated actions to prevent kids from exposure to drugs. In some cases, kids keep stuff of their friends, some students may get exposed to second hand smoke and there can be other inexplicable scenarios how one comes across any kind of drug or tests positive for a certain drug. All these can lead to humiliation for a student who is not at fault.