Question of the Week: Does student drug testing achieve drug free students?

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 8-23-10

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 8-23-10.

Question of the Week: Does student drug testing achieve drug free students?

As described in the July 2010 report from the U.S. Department of Education, entitled “The Effectiveness of Mandatory-Random Student Drug Testing,”

“One approach to address student substance use is school-based mandatory-random student drug testing (MRSDT). Under MRSDT, students and their parents sign consent forms agreeing to the students’ random drug testing as a condition of participation in athletics and other school-sponsored competitive extracurricular activities.”

These programs have the goals of (1) identifying students with substance use problems for referral to counseling or treatment services, and (2) deterring substance use among all students.

Unfortunately, MSRDT has produced few results. Seven years ago, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found,

“Drug testing is not associated with either significantly lower risk scores or lower estimates of student body drug use.”

That same year, researchers in a Journal of School Health article concluded,

“drug testing (of any kind) was not a significant predictor of student marijuana use in the past 12 months. Neither was drug testing for cause or suspicion.”

A 2007 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health questioned deterrence, finding that,

“No Drug and Alcohol Testing deterrent effects were evident for past month use.”

The conclusions in the aforementioned 2010 Department of Education report mostly mirrored those of the prior studies, stating that mandatory random student drug testing has,

“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.”

These facts and others like them can be found in the Drug Testing chapter of Drug War Facts at

Questions concerning these or other facts concerning drug policy can be e-mailed to