It’s never been a popular policy. Students, parents, school boards, and organizations have been at odds over the issue of random drug testing of high school students for years — with many arguing these tests are not only expensive and ineffective, but also potentially detrimental. Students could even cheat the tests.
But in Boone County, Indiana, where there have been nearly 20 overdose deaths of young people so far this year, doing “something” has now trumped “doing nothing.”
After years of delays and debate, a proposal to randomly drug-test high school students in the community of Zionsville was approved earlier this week. The school board voted 3-2 in favor of a policy that will require any student who participates in extracurricular activities or who parks on school property to consent to random drug tests.
Any student who fails the test will be required to enter and complete a drug counseling program.
Zionsville isn’t the only Indiana school district screening students in the hopes of cracking down on drug use among students. Nearly half of all schools in the state have adopted similar policies since 1988, according to the Indianapolis Star. Each test costs about $36, the publication reported. The tests are paid for with concession and vending machine revenues.
“The fact that we now have school boards and groups of parents pushing for random drug testing in high schools should be a huge wake-up call for America,” said Dr. Timothy Huckaby, medical director of Orlando Recovery Center and president of the Florida Society of Addiction Medicine.
“The fact that we now have school boards and groups of parents pushing for random drug testing in high schools should be a huge wake-up call for America,” said one addiction specialist.
Drug overdose deaths have surpassed motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death for American youth, Huckaby told LifeZette. So extreme actions, such as random drug testing in our schools, doesn’t seem so extreme anymore.
“The real question is not should we test or not test. Nor is the real question about whether this violates rights or is an excessive intrusion of privacy. When we have a medical epidemic that is adversely affecting our children, resulting in unprecedented morbidity and mortality because of the availability and potency of the current drugs — school boards and parents want immediate solutions,” he said.
While random drug testing may be one way (albeit hugely controversial) of trying to identify a problem early — it can’t be the only way.
“Detection is necessary, but early detection must begin in our families and communities — and once a problem is detected, what do we do next? That is where we need a national strategic comprehensive vision instead of the current confusion that on one hand is sounding the alarm bell about heroin deaths, and on the other hand is turning a blind eye to the growing numbers of states where recreational cannabis is permitted,” said Huckaby.
He added that he doesn’t know — much like everyone else — if drug testing in high schools is the right move. But he is convinced the nation needs to wake up and realize that the current policies to deal with addiction have been a failure.
“We need early education about drugs, better identification of ‘at risk’ patient populations, early detection, the end of addiction stigma, better understanding of substance use disorder disease processes in our primary care clinics, better access to comprehensive treatment, and national leadership that makes the medical treatment of substance use disorders a top priority,” said Huckaby. “That would be a great start.”