Pubdate: Wed, 20 Feb 2008
Source: Times-News, The (ID)
Copyright: 2008 Magic Valley Newspapers
Author: Dan Bernath


I was surprised that your Feb. 14 editorial, "More drug testing, less
drug abuse," made no mention of the largest study of random drug
testing in schools.

Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in the
Journal of School Health, the 2003 report studied 76,000 students
across the country. Marijuana use rates - and drug use rates in
general - were nearly identical for students who had been tested and
those who had not. Study author Dr. Lloyd Johnston concluded, "There
really isn't an impact from drug testing as practiced ... I don't
think it brings about any constructive changes in their attitudes
about drugs or their belief in the dangers associated with using them."

But random drug testing in schools isn't merely ineffective. Students
quickly learn that marijuana's metabolites stay in the system longer
and are therefore easier to detect than many more dangerous, addictive
drugs such as methamphetamine and narcotic painkillers. Testing's
deadly lesson: Use the hard stuff to avoid getting busted.

Testing is typically used to bar kids from extracurricular activities,
even though research and experience tells us that children who
participate in such activities have less chance of getting caught up
with drugs in the first place. What kind of drug prevention program
prohibits our most at-risk children from engaging in the activities
that could help them most?

Dan Bernath

Washington, D.C.

(Editor's note: Dan Bernath is the assistant director of 
communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.)