Rave blog Post

K-12 High School Drug and Alcohol Testing

The time spent in high school is often considered the most formative years in the lives of adolescents and teenagers. There’s prom, college admissions and decisions, lasting friendships and so much more. As we enter the new decade, that’s starting to change. While the national opioid epidemic has somewhat missed many high school students across the United States, those who are impacted by the opioid crisis and those who aren't still face other several public health threats today.

Drug and substance abuse have always been present in most high schools to an extent, but it seems to have been growing in the past few years. Peer and academic pressure has started to entice high schoolers to try substances, such as adderall, that would keep them alert and focused. A study conducted from 2010 to 2015 found that 7.9% of high school students admitted to nonmedical amphetamine use. The researchers believed that underreporting could have been an issue and estimate that nonmedical amphetamine use by high school students could be as high as 9.8% (or one in ten students). The drug most commonly abused was Adderall. 

It’s not only drugs that schools need to focus on. The rise of adolescent vaping has also become a major public health concern as the long-term effects are unknown. In 2019, there was a sweeping scare among young e-cigarette users as many were hospitalized with lung issues.

Drug abuse and vaping have started to adversely affect teenagers. 

The Growing Drug Abuse and the Unknowns of Vaping 

In the United States, every school (private, public or other) has some form of drug policy. Of those, most high schools have a zero-tolerance policy seeing as a majority of opioids and drugs are illegal. While the misuse of drugs has been slowly declining, nearly 3.6 percent of adolescents ages 12-17 reported misusing prescription drugs in the past year. Schools are even expanding drug tests to include one for nicotine. 

A more pressing health concern facing high school students is the use of e-cigarettes or vaping. There’s an estimated 3.6 million high school students using e-cigarettes and the consequences of vaping are still unknown. In 2019, 354 vaping related lung issues arose across 29 states and most cases were of young high school students. This spurred action across these states as many banned some e-cigarette flavors, such as the bubblegum and candy flavors, that were thought to be enticing young users. 

Related Blog: How Schools Can Be Prepared for Vaping Medical Emergencies

Public health officials, parents and school administrators all acknowledge the highly addictive qualities of nicotine and the effects it has on adolescent brains. Many schools have decided to take action in regards to the drug and nicotine abuse among students and plan to implement random drug tests. 

Drug Testing in Schools

Some high schools have started to implement mandatory random drug tests for all students. Drug testing is extremely common among professional athletes and in some cases student athletes, but the average high schooler has likely never had to participate in a drug test. 

There are a variety of ways that schools have drug tested students over the years, such as being breathalyzed before entering a school sporting event or a senior prom. While private schools have more control over mandatory drug testing since enrollment is optional, public schools are now beginning to consider similar options. More than 37% of school districts have adopted a student drug-testing policy based on 2016 data from the Center for Disease Control. 

Related Blog: Opioid Crisis and Overdose Awareness for K-12 Schools

Drug testing in public schools has always been a national topic. In 2002, the Supreme Court (in a 5 to 4 decision) “upheld the widespread use of random drug testing of public school students in a significant expansion of an earlier ruling that endorsed drug testing for student athletes.” Drug testing students is a deterrent for some and a way for intervention for others. High school can be a stressful time for students, from worrying about college, to social pressures and more. 

In Nebraska, Fairbury Public Schools has started to randomly test students who participate in extracurriculars for nicotine use. The District’s Superintendent, Stephen Grizzle, told the New York Times in an interview that, “[Vaping] has been something that has been on our mind for a while because we have seen a drastic increase in students that are vaping,” Grizzle said. “Smoking in general, but vaping seems to be the craze right now.”   

The planned drug testing of students is meant to be a preventative measure. Curbing bad drug habits early on can only help students as they grow and enable them to stay on track at school. 

Keeping Your Students Safe 

While it is harder to keep students safe when it comes to vaping and drugs, there are other ways you can ensure their safety. If there ever is a health issue, or worse, an overdose on campus, the need for quick medical response is essential. The right technology could ensure that school nurses, administrators and teachers can call for medical help and alert others of the situation all in one go. 

Emergency department visits for amphetamine drug use has tripled from 2010 to 2015. Being prepared in case a student ever has a medical emergency at school related to drug or e-cigarette use is imperative. The growing numbers nationally only show that school administrators and nurses need to be proactive in this situation.

Schools have turned to panic button technology to help speed up emergency response times, whether there is a medical emergency or overdose, fire, active assailant, or other school safety threat. To a mobile panic button in action, click below! 

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Amelia Marceau
Amelia Marceau

Amelia is a marketing intern at Rave. She loves to write about anything safety related. When she’s away from the keyboard, you’ll either find her playing with her dog, ice skating, or competing in a triathlon. Amelia attends the University of Massachusetts Amherst, majoring in Political Science and Journalism.

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