Subscribe!Get all the best of On Walkabout by subscribing.

Australian Schools Debate Whether to Introduce Mandatory Drug Testing

Interesting article I read in The Age newspaper yesterday which debated whether Australian schools should implement drug testing or not.  This debate comes on the heels of the recent debate to raise the Australian drinking age from 18-21 years of age.  Here is the rationale why some want the schools to implement drug testing:

AT FIRST glance, the idea of drug-testing our school students may not seem palatable. But when we look more closely at the position we are now in, Australians may need to rethink how we can prevent illicit drug use among our young.

The fact is that rates of illicit drug use in Australia are higher than other countries in the developed world. For example, the US has lower per capita rates of amphetamine and cannabis use than we do. Its binge-drinking rates are also lower than those of Australian teenagers. Indeed, a recent international comparison of under-age alcohol use, conducted by Australian and US researchers and involving 6000 children, found levels of binge drinking are up to three times higher among Australian year 9 students compared with equivalent American teenagers.

Given that the US is making better headway than Australia, in both binge drinking and illicit drug use among its young people, we should be looking more closely at what is working there. One strategy that we have not yet tried as a preventive measure is drug-testing students. Unfortunately, this week’s Australian National Council on Drugs report on drug testing in schools fails to mention the many successful drug-testing programs being carried out across the US. These programs are now carried out in more than 1200 schools with documented high success rates in reducing drug use among students. [The Age]

When I went to school in the US there was no mandatory drug testing in my school.  There was drug testing for people who participated in athletics though, but we were only tested once year and I did not know of one person caught taking drugs from the testing.  I can understand drug testing for athletics to prevent athletes from taking performance enhancing drugs, but I don’t think it is necessary to test the entire school population.  The expense and time for what is statistically a small problem doesn’t appear to me anyway to be worth it.  Also it seems like this is the creeping of the schools into parenting.  Parents should be responsible for whether or not their kids are taking drugs. 

Speaking of parenting, here is a perfect example of how parenting can actually lead to kids taking drugs:

ILLICIT drug use by Australian schoolchildren is more common among those with the most pocket money, according to new research.  (…)

The report found that students with relatively high disposable incomes were most at risk of getting into drugs. Those who had between $21 and $60 a week in pocket money were 60% more likely to have used drugs in the past 12 months than those with less than $20 a week to spend.  [The Age]

This finding confirms what I personally experienced in high school, kids who’s parents gave them large allowances were the ones mostly smoking pot.  In my opinion if teenagers have to work for their money they will be less likely squander it on things such as buying pot.  However, I knew of very few people that even used drugs in high school.  

Here is what I find to be the most troubling findings of the study:

The research, by the Australian National Council on Drugs, found that in any given week, one in five 16 to 17-year-olds drank at harmful levels. By contrast, fewer than 4% of school students were regular users of cannabis, and fewer than 1% used other illicit drugs.

20% of 16-17 year olds in high school binge drink?  Amazing.  This is probably a higher percentage of binge drinking then what I experienced in college in the US.  This is something that raising the drinking age will not change because these teenagers are already under the legal drinking age and binge drink anyway.  It seems to me focusing on the under age drinking problems in school would be a more worthy pursuit then drug testing everyone in the nation’s schools.  Of course I could be wrong, any other thoughts from anyone?

11 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *