One out of five American high schools drug tests its students, despite little to no evidence that such tests actually deter drug use, according to a new study published in the January issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. For more than a year, researchers from the University of Haifa, Israel, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania, followed 361 high schoolers, and found that those enrolled in institutions with drug testing policies didn't use alcohol, marijuana and tobacco any less than their peers at schools with no such policy.
“Drug testing sounds good, [but] based on the science, it's not working," study author Daniel Romer explained. A positive academic environment, however -- one where students feel cared for and respected by teachers and faculty -- can reduce the drug use, according to the same research.
So perhaps instead of demanding that young people surrender their bodily fluids on demand (or in order to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities), those charged with educating the future leaders of this nation should consider actually taking a personal interest in their lives, particularly those kids who seem most susceptible to problematic drug use.
“The mechanism underlying the protective effects of school climate on adolescent substance use follows from social control theory, which predicts that students who are attached to schools refrain from substance use behaviors because they internalize the pro-social expectations and norms encouraged by schools,” according to the study. “Building on this framework, research has found that high schools that treat students with respect and that explain and enforce drug use policies are more likely to encourage healthy norms of behavior (including reduced substance use) than schools that focus on control of behavior without respect for student needs and perspectives.”
In other words, treating high schoolers like mature citizens able to make responsible decisions for themselves engenders far better outcomes than a punitive approach focused on fear of punishment. A theory that should come as a big surprise to anyone who has never actually met or interacted with a teenager. For the rest of us, the only question remaining is whether school administrators nationwide will acknowledge the clear results of this study and immediately end the practice of drug testing once and for all, or continue to teach American teenagers a lesson in putting ideology over science.