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Report verifies decline in drug use

Monday, February 4, 2013

Students subject to mandatory-random student drug testing (MRSDT) reported less substance use than comparable students in high schools without MRSDT, according to report that examined programs in dozens of high schools in the United States.

The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences (IES), U.S. Department of Education, did a report in 2010 titled “The Effectiveness of Mandatory-Random Student Drug Testing.”

IES contracted with RMC Research Corp. and Mathematica Policy Research to conduct an evaluation of MRSDT programs in 36 high schools within seven districts that received grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools in 2006.

The key findings included:

“1. Consistent with the goals of the program, students subject to MRSDT reported less substance use than comparable students in high schools without MRSDT. Student-reported past-30-day use of substances tested under their districts’ MRSDT policies was lower in schools implementing MRSDT than in schools without such policies. A similar, though not statistically significant, pattern was observed on other student-reported substance use measures.

“2. However, the MRSDT program had no ‘spillover effects’ on the substance use reported by students who were not subject to testing and had no effect on any group of students’ reported intentions to use substances in the future.

“3. Contrary to concerns raised about the possible unintentional negative consequences of random drug testing, the MRSDT program had no effect on the proportion of students participating in activities subject to drug testing or on students’ attitudes toward school and perceived consequences of substance use.”

Another report, by the U.S. Department of Education, cited a study (Ringwalt et al. 2008) showing that an estimated 14 percent of U.S. public school districts conducted random drug testing in at least one of their high schools during the 2004–2005 school year.

A summary of the study by Chris Ringwalt (DrPH, or doctor of public health) and others is posted on the website of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. It says data were collected in spring 2005 from 1,343 drug prevention coordinators in a nationally representative sample of school districts with schools that have high school grades.

“Of these, 14 percent conducted random drug testing. Almost all districts randomly tested athletes, and 65 percent randomly tested other students engaged in extracurricular activities; 28 percent randomly tested all students, exceeding the current sanction of the U.S. Supreme Court.”


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