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Thursday, October 18, 2007

OHSU study: High school drug testing doesn't help much

"In reality, kids are using just as many drugs and the administrators are walking around in their dream world.''

Comments (9)

Many years ago one of my sons got caught smoking a joint and drinking beer in a park. He was probably seventeen.

Back in my day, the cops would take you home and let your parents handle it.

In our current nanny-gate world, they don't do that. The county made him go into an outpatient rehab program. It lasted about three months, twice a week. Kids only one night, kids with parents on the second night. They were drug tested at each meeting.

So what did my kid learn? Other kids in the program were on meth, or coke, or heroin. They were able to educate my son... not about the evils of drugs, but rather which drugs did not show up in urinalysis, how to beat urinalysis, etc. etc.

Basically the government, in their infinite wisdom, took something that was no big deal at all back in 1970, and transformed it into an experience that introduced my son to all forms of illegal drugs and the people who used them and pushed them.

Ain't that progress?

Gosh, I bet the Vernonia district sure is glad now that they spent all that money to defend their testing program all the way to the Supreme Court!

Regardless of your stand on drugs, I don't think anyone should put much stock in a study that only involves 11 people. That's a ridiculously small sample size from which to draw implications on society and drug policy.

Dave, much as I lament what happened to your son, I don't understand how the government prevented letting you handle it, as you'd wished. Furthermore, you say the experience "introduced my son to all forms of illegal drugs and the people who used them and pushed them", but since he'd been caught with marijuana, that was already the case.


As I recall (it was over ten years ago) here's how it worked:

We were told that my son would have to appear before a judge and that if he refused the rehab he would relinquish his driver's license. We figured that was no problem; he didn't have a drivers license (he still doesn't, and never has). When we pointed that out to the caseworker, she informed us that the judge would most likely order the rehab anyway.

The rehab wasn't free... the county contracted it out to a private provider. I was lucky in that my health insurance plan covered it. Other parents weren't so lucky; they just had to pay for it.

You are right in that teenagers are exposed to all sorts of drugs anyway (whether they have experimented with any of them or not), but putting a kid in with a group that is mainly concerned with continuing to get high and not get caught is, in my view, a different matter.

Dave, it sounds like the particulars of the rehab program are the problem, not the concept of rehab itself.

First, I can't believe you (or someone you pay) had to pay for it. That's horrible. If it's important to society that someone go to rehab, then society should pay.

Second, it sounds like the rehab program was poorly organized. I don't know anything about the subject myself, but it sounds like a one-on-one program would have done much better.

Sorry to hear all that.


Just wanted to clarify something you mentioned earlier. The OHSU drug testing study SATURN involved 11 schools with approximately 1,400 student-athletes participating. The full article is published in the November issue of the Journal of Adolescent Medicine and is available free online.

THanks tODD:

I thought it was like using an elephant gun when a flyswatter was called for. Maybe they've changed it since then, but I doubt it.

In any event, I'm fine, my son is fine and all is well. And it's not because of government-mandated rehab, that's for sure.

Tamara, I could have sworn the Times article said, "The two-year study of 11 Oregon high school students", but it appears I am an idiot. Sorry. A sample size of 1,400 is much better.

It is always worth reiterating that while doing legal drugs may be a poor decision for a variety of reasons, doing illegal drugs is a bad idea primarily for one reason and one reason alone: they are illegal. Any personal proximity to them — having them in your pocket, smelling like them, appearing to be under their influence, associating with others who use them, etc.—only increases the likelihood of your becoming ensnared in the criminal justice system. Which, one could argue, has the power to ruin your life with a speed and determination that drugs can only envy.

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