Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jul 2001
Source: Free Lance-Star (VA)
Copyright: 2001 The Free Lance-Star
Author: Robert Sharpe
Note: Robert Sharpe is a program officer at the Lindesmith Center-Drug 
Policy Foundation.


Kudos to Laura Baker for an excellent July 3 column on student drug- 
testing ["Random drug tests trample basic rights--and make every student a 

The tests are indeed both invasive and expensive. And while they are no 
doubt well-intended, they're ultimately counterproductive.

Student involvement in extracurricular activities like sports has been 
shown to reduce drug use. Forcing students to undergo degrading tests as a 
prerequisite will only discourage extracurricular activity. It may also 
compel users of relatively harmless marijuana to switch to harder drugs to 
avoid testing positive.

Marijuana, despite a short-lived high, is the only drug that stays in the 
human body long enough to make urinalysis a deterrent. Marijuana's organic 
metabolites are fat-soluble and can linger for weeks. Synthetic drugs like 
methamphetamines are water-soluble and exit the human body within a few days.

The younger generation is well aware of these limitations. Anyone capable 
of running a search on the Internet can find out how to thwart a drug test. 
Why is this relevant? Because the growing use of Ecstasy is in part a 
result of drug testing.

A student who takes Ecstasy on Friday night will likely test clean on 
Monday morning. Ironically, the least dangerous recreational drug is the 
only one whose use is discouraged by testing. Drug-testing profiteers do 
not readily volunteer this information, for obvious reasons.

Finally, I would like to point out that the most commonly abused drug and 
the one most often associated with violent behavior is almost impossible to 
detect with urinalysis. That drug is alcohol, and it takes far more student 
lives every year than all other drugs combined.

Rather than waste scarce resources on counterproductive drug tests, schools 
would be wise to invest in reality-based drug education.

Robert Sharpe Washington, D.C. Robert Sharpe is a program officer at the 
Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom