Students randomly tested for alcohol in middle school seem less likely to drink and use drugs during those middle grades, and they are less likely to drink when they get older, a six-year study of New Jersey students finds. Researchers, however, caution that random drug testing isn’t a panacea for drug- and alcohol-use prevention.
The study tracked about 3,500 middle school students from the 2006-07 school year into this school year. Researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University, in Teaneck, N.J., and from the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey found that middle school students who had been tested at any point in grades 6-8 for drug and alcohol use didn’t follow the typical pattern of most high school students.
Those who had been tested did not show a spike in alcohol use during their junior year in high school, when they have access to jobs, cars, and money and are exposed to older individuals who are more likely to use alcohol and drugs.
The effect of the testing on drug use wasn’t the same. “Students who had been tested showed much smaller increases in perceived and actual use of alcohol but not drugs year to year,” the study says.
A version of this article appeared in the April 03, 2013 edition of Education Week as Drug Testing