Random Drug Testing in High Schools Ineffective, Study Finds

If you’re looking to stop teens from using drugs, testing them for substances isn’t going to cut it anymore. Drug testing, particularly by high schools, is seen as a top combatant to teen substance abuse. But a new study shows that drug testing high schoolers is ineffective — with students who are tested just as likely to try marijuana or cigarettes.

Many schools often implement random drug testing for sports teams or school clubs, and supporters believe the looming threat of consequences will "spillover" and deter teens from using illegal substances. Sorry, but were you ever a teenager? Loopholes, fighting authority, beating the system ... any one?

While 20 percent of American high schools test for drugs, the study from the University of Pennsylvania finds the efforts are pretty much useless. Student drug testing “is a relatively ineffective drug-prevention policy,” researchers say, and conclusions prove the policy is "kind of wrong-headed."

We've seen a spike in the popularity of marijuana — just take a look at all the petitions to make it legal. And while 60 percent of teens see marijuana as safe, use among the demographic has remained stagnant. (E-cigarettes, though, are all the rage.)

So what does work to keep these kids in line? Dan Romer and Sharon R. Sznitman, co-authors of the report, say a positive school environment helps to lower the rates of illegal drug use. Efforts that foster good teacher-student-relationships and involve parents can promote a sense of security for teens.

Students in such schools were 15 percent less likely to start smoking cigarettes and 20 percent less likely to use marijuana.

What the positive conditions and testing don't help, however, is student drinking, which is a whole different playing field. Researchers believe alcohol has become the norm for teens, "associated with adjustment in youth population." Just wait til they hit the working world.