Students involved in extracurricular activities and subject to in-school random drug testing reported using drugs less often than their peers in high schools that didn’t have drug-testing programs, according to a federal evaluation of 4,700 students spread across seven states.
The study was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education, and conducted by RMC Research Corp., based in Portsmouth, N.H., and Princeton, N.J.-based Mathematica Policy Research. The researchers said the study, which was posted online last month, is the largest and most rigorous examination of drug-testing programs to date.
Sixteen percent of students who were subject to drug testing in the study reported using substances covered by their district’s testing program in the previous 30 days, compared with 22 percent of similar students in schools without a drug-testing program.
But the presence of the drug-testing program did not affect students’ reported intentions to use covered substances in the future, the study shows. In the schools with drug testing, 34 percent of students reported they “definitely” or “probably” would use substances covered by their school’s drug-testing program in the next 12 months. In schools without testing, 33 percent of students reported they would definitely or probably use covered substances.
In the one-year period of the study, there was no evidence of positive spillover effects from drug testing: The same proportion of students in drug-testing schools who were not subject to the policy because they didn’t play sports or weren’t involved in extracurricular activities reported substance use as students in schools that did not conduct drug tests.
A version of this article appeared in the August 11, 2010 edition of Education Week as Drug-Testing Programs Influence Teen Behavior