Pros and Cons of Student Drug Testing at Schools

Drug addiction is a psychological and physical dependency of an individual to drugs. It is referred to as a disease of the brain wherein its normal functioning is affected with constant use of illicit substances or narcotic drugs supposedly intended to help patients suffering from chronic pain due to cancer and other medical conditions.

Substance abuse is one huge problem that the world is facing. Despite implementing strict regulations and widespread monitoring of these illicit drugs, drug users are able to have access to them and continuously engage with drug use.

The major concern now is how students as young as 12 years old could already be hooked with these illicit substances.

Drug use in students has become a steep struggle among the different schools across the U.S. This problem has caused so many students to skip school and get involved with drug-related incidents which most often lead to arrests, accidents, and death.

student drug testing

Drug Testing Conducted in Schools

While some may see it as an invasion of privacy and loss of trust, drug testing is a precautionary measure to ensure that the school is a safe place for students to be in. The school’s role is not merely being an anchor towards education, but also a second home which will protect students from harm and provide them with a safe and drug-free learning environment.

Random drug testing can be a means of opening doors to provide help to those who might already be involved in drug use. Early intervention of drug use would mean providing treatment early on.

It is a known fact that so many young students have become drug users. Some of the main causes of drug use in students include the following:

  • Curiosity
  • Peer pressure
  • Escape from problem
  • Psychological trauma
  • Exposure to parents with a history of drug addiction
  • Severe trauma or injury
  • Mental condition

Drugs Abuse by Students

Results of the Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey of drug use and attitudes among different school levels – particularly 8th, 10th and 12th graders – is encouraging, as the rate of drug use has been declining compared to the previous years.

A school drug testing program has two purposes: to identify the students who are involved in illegal drug use, and to deter substance and drug abuse among students.

Usage rates of the following substances are at their lowest since the survey started:

  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Inhalants
  • Sedatives

The following substances were found to have a dramatic decline in use for the past 5 years among the 8th-10th graders:

  • Marijuana
  • Synthetic cannabinoids
  • Prescription opioids
  • Hallucinogens
  • Amphetamines
  • Over-the-counter cough and cold medications

Marijuana use declined among 8th and 10th graders despite developments in state marijuana laws. Daily use of marijuana among 8th graders declined compared to 2015, from about 1.1% to 0.7%.

The said survey also showed that there is a higher rate of marijuana use among 12th graders in states with medical marijuana laws compared to states without them.

Meanwhile, opioid misuse continued to decline among high school students despite the rise of prescription abuse among adults.

Physical Nature of Drug Abuse

Addictive substances can affect behavior and alter areas of the brain that are associated with motivation, memory and reward, namely:

  • Amygdala
  • Basal Forebrain
  • Anterior Cingulate Cortex
  • Nucleus Accumbens

Due to the psychological nature of addiction, it can be very difficult to overcome addiction. When a drug user ceases to use the illicit substances, any of the following withdrawal symptoms steps may occur:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Restlessness or insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Lack of or increased appetite
  • Sweating and/or hot flushes
  • Emotional instability

drug tests

Common Drug Testing Methods

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) specifies testing programs that will be able to detect the five common drugs:

  • Cannabinoids (marijuana)
  • Cocaine (cocaine, crack)
  • Amphetamines (amphetamines, methamphetamines)
  • Opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

There are five primary types of drug tests, namely:


This is the least expensive of all drug tests. The samples are often temperature tested to ensure its integrity. The only downfall of this type of test is that it cannot detect substance abuse if the individual has abstained for at least a day prior to collection of urine.


This is more expensive than urine test, but is cheaper than hair or blood testing. It is considered a relatively non-intrusive method of drug testing. This may be easier to administer but will still require a laboratory to properly process to ensure accuracy.

Drug use can be detected within the past few days. This is more reliable for detection of methamphetamine and opiates and is less reliable for THC or cannabinoids.


This is more expensive than urine test, which may range from below $100 to $150. Just like the saliva test, the hair test is non-intrusive. It can be able to detect drug use over a long period of time. The sample hair length should at least be 1.5 inches long and a diameter of a pencil stroke.


This is the most expensive method of testing and is considered to be the most intrusive, but it’s also most accurate method of the bunch. While this can be the most helpful of all drug tests, it is not common as urine test because of its high cost.

Sweat (Patch Test)

This type of test requires the person to wear a patch for an extended period of time. Its accuracy is questionable because for some reason the surface contamination is possible and may cause a false reading.

benefits of school drug testing

Benefits of Student Drug Testing

Not everyone may be in favor of taking this test, primarily on the grounds of invasion of privacy. However, drug testing among students can provide the following advantages:
Educate students to adapt a healthier lifestyle

Letting the students know the effect of using these illicit drugs will help students to stay away from it. Along with drug testing is an awareness program that will help educate the students about the ill effects of these illegal substances.

Provides manpower to provide a drug-free learning environment

It allows an environment that is safe for the students to stay in.

Eliminate influence and peer pressure to use drugs

It may not be inevitable that some teens may influence others to try using drugs. Teenagers, for instance, are in the stage of trying to discover things around them. With student drug testing, teens may think twice about trying out illicit substances.

Further protection and safeguard schools

Students who may be involved with drugs may also be involved with crimes within the campus and may perform questionable activities that can affect the whole campus.

Pursuance of reach out activities and programs to victims of drug abuse

There is a continuous educational program that lets all the students get involved in fighting drugs and in keeping themselves busy with worthwhile activities.

Discovery of drug offenders that may lead to drug smuggling

Students who are involved with drug use may be able to pinpoint who might be selling drugs within the campus.

Proper identification of the commonly used drugs

A school drug testing program lets students become aware of what they should stay away from.

All in all, the main advantage of student drug testing is that those who may already be involved will have the opportunity to change their ways and undergo the necessary treatment.

Disadvantages of Student Drug Testing

On the flip side, people who are not in favor of random drug testing in school say the following drawbacks:

  1. Some student drug users may be excelling in school. Protesters ask why a student should be punished for an activity that is done outside of the campus (assuming that taking of drugs is not performed within the school premises).
  2. They see it as an invasive attack on the right of privacy. This is not only referring to the rights of the students but as well as the right of privacy of parents.
  3. Drug testing means additional cost of money which could not be helpful to school districts who already struggling with their school budget.

Anyone who is randomly tested for drugs is ensured of confidentiality. The students who are found to be positive with drug use will not be listed or be publicized. Drug testing is not a means of shaming involved students, but rather a step in extending them help in order to cope with their normal lives.

Schools may provide assistance to those students who are found out to be positive with drugs are given a second chance in life by being admitted to rehabilitation centers before the addiction gets worse.

Legal Side of Drug Testing

School drug testing is legal under federal law. It is very important to be able to help treat students who are into illegal drug use and to subject those who are notorious into reasonable penalties.


For every situation, there are some good and bad points. And while it can be a cause for a certain law to not easily be implemented, people should be able to see the advantages more than the disadvantages. Providing a drug-free environment is a must. It ensures everyone to be free from drug-related incidents and keeps the students away from destroying their lives.

The survey results which stated the decline of drug abuse among young students is a good sign that slowly, these children are taking care of themselves. It may not be possible to completely eliminate drugs most especially among adults.

A thorough educational program should be implemented in every school to help children become more aware of the ill effects of the illegal substances.

Apart from the education programs that the school should provide, parents should continuously nurture a good relationship with their children. Parents should always have quality time spent with the kids so that they would be able to know what is going on with the lives of each of their children. When parents give more attention to their children, the children are less likely to commit themselves to unlawful activities.

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Lena Butler

My name is Lena Butler. I live in San Diego, California. I work as a customer service representative for I attended the University of San Diego and majored in marketing. I enjoy spending time at home, working on my painting and playing with my two pet rabbits, Carl and Lenny, when I am not here sharing interesting posts :)

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