Students involved in extracurricular activities and subject to in-school random drug testing reported less substance use than their peers in high schools that didn’t have drug-testing programs, according 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 Corporation in Portsmouth, N.H. and the Princeton, N.J.-based Mathematica Policy Research. The researchers said it’s the largest and most rigorous examination of school drug-testing programs to date.
Sixteen percent of students subject to drug testing in the study reported using substances covered by their district’s drug testing program in the past 30 days, compared to 22 percent of comparable students in schools without the program.
“We essentially found that students’ past drug use was significantly affected by the program,” Susanne N. James-Burdumy, an associate director of research for Mathematica Policy Research said, referring to students’ drug use in the 30 days prior to the surveys.
But the presence of the drug-testing program did not affect students’ reported intentions to use substances in the future, the study showed. In the schools with drug testing, 34 percent of students reported they “definitely will” or “probably will” use substances in the next 12 months. In schools without testing, 33 percent of students in schools reported they will definitely or probably use substances.
“When they’re reporting their past substance use, that period of time covers a period when students would have been subject to substance testing,” Ms. James-Burdumy said. “When they’re reporting future activities, they might not be subject to the testing program.”