Random drug testing in schools is unworkable


Letter: Random drug testing in schools fails screening criteria BMJ Volume 328, p 641

Random drug testing in schools is unworkable because schools could not satisfy government criteria for introducing new screening programmes, claims a public health expert in this week's BMJ.

The Department of Health has 19 criteria for introducing new screening programmes. At least 18 of these are not met for widespread drug urine analysis in schools, writes Woody Caan, Professor of Public Health at Anglia Polytechnic University.

Three failed criteria concerning investigation and treatment of people with a positive test result are especially pertinent to screening for school age drug use.

He also argues that a single, positive urine test, for any illicit drug, is probably not meaningful without examining the context in which the drug is used.

For instance, use by a homeless pregnant teenage runaway with a history of deliberate self harm may be very different from a single experimental use at home with adults during a family party, he says.

"In three years' of experience of school health provision for alcohol and drug problems and their related referral networks, I do not know of one school that could satisfy these criteria, especially the underpinning policy of promoting informed choice for children and families," he concludes.

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