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Friday, January 18, 2008

This Week on Drugs

posted by on January 18 at 18:00 PM

Random Student Drug Testing: That’s how to stop drug abuse before it starts, they say. Advocates led by the White House held two summits in Washington encouraging school administrators to begin randomly drug testing students. Under the programs, teens involved in extra-curricular school activities would be selected at random to pee into a cup and punished if their sample contained drug metabolites. “A lot of kids don’t want to use drugs and this gives them a reason not to,” said Bertha Madras, Deputy Director of the White House’s drug-policy office.

The most charismatic speaker was Lisa Brady, a perky Superintendent from New Jersey. She conducted one survey in 1999, while a drug-testing program was in effect, and another one three years later, while the program had been repealed during a lawsuit (which the district later won). The study found that the number of “multi-drug users” increased 52-to-316 percent after the drug testing stopped. Brady passionately framed the issue: “Deciding to randomly drug test is not about how bad your drug problem is, but about how much you are willing to do to keep your students off drugs.”

But while drug testing might allow schools to take a clear stand against drugs, it’s not clear it actually reduces drug use. The University of Michigan released the only peer-reviewed scientific report on the subject in 2005, finding that drug testing had no effect (.pdf). Madras dismisses the report because it included schools that weren’t testing students randomly. However, the report accounts for this, stating, “No statistically significant difference was found in student use of marijuana or other illicit drugs between these seven schools and the great majority of high schools that did not have random testing.”

Even if testing would reduce drug use, it raised other concerns for those at the summit. “The danger being if districts are not careful about policies and procedudes, kids might get punished without receiving counseling,” said Chris Harnish, a drug counselor in the Mercer Island School District. The federal funding—which has thus far totalled $36.1 million to over 400 schools—requires that students be referred to counseling but won’t pay for counseling, rehabilitation, or drug education. Another member in the audience was troubled that drug testing may prompt some students to use drugs that could metabolize over the weekend, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, rather than less dangerous drugs like marijuana, which stays in the body for a month.

Jennifer Kern of the Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization that opposes the programs, says, “This creates barriers for the students who need most to be involved in school activities.”

Prince of Pot: Packing for prison.

Sexist Medicine: If I don’t understand your disease, you don’t have one.

He Wanted to Be Taken Higher: Ike Turner was killed by coke.

Light Cigarettes: Supreme Court will decide if ads were deceptive.

Liquor Board: Has a legislative agenda.

A Death in Everett: Another controlled substance homicide case.

Chronic Offender: WSU student arrested for pot twice in same night.

RSS icon Comments


Re: testing, I spent most of high school on decongestants & antihistimines so I could breathe (you know a smoker loves you when your allergy diagnosis makes them smoke MORE 'cause of the STRESS).

Both the old over-the-counter antihistimines AND pseudophenedrine will give a false positive on the many drug tests. And since when is school going to want to pop the cash for an ACCURATE test that can tell the OTCs from the illegals?

Posted by JenK | January 18, 2008 6:56 PM

“A lot of kids don’t want to use drugs and this gives them a reason not to.”

Um, the only reason I needed to avoid drugs was the mere fact that I didn't want to use them. Being tested for drugs, just because I was in the marching band, would have pissed me off and probably made me rebellious. I know I would have thought that if they were so damned sure I was using drugs, then maybe I should just go do it after all. Fuck authority. And fuck the culture of mistrust.

Posted by band nerd | January 18, 2008 8:00 PM

Jumping jesus on a motherfucking pogostick I cannot believe this! Random drug testing?!??!!! Of high school students?!?!? And you people call yourselves the land of the free? I can't even wrap my head around this! Where's the ACLU? Where are their parents? The mere idea that publicly funded schools could require this makes my blood run cold. Seriously, I like the States but you people had better realize that you are in serious danger...

Posted by TeamCanada | January 18, 2008 8:05 PM

How, exactly, is the NYT article on the controversial fibromyalgia diagnosis "sexist medicine"? It seems pretty sound to me. Is science-based medicine automatically sexist? Huh?

Posted by Sister Y | January 18, 2008 8:18 PM

if you're not guilty, why would you object?

fucking america haters...

Posted by maxsolomon@home | January 18, 2008 8:25 PM

"Sister Y," I find it deeply offensive that a disease causing millions of women pain and suffering supposedly doesn't exist because a handful of men who don't understand the disease say so. Make of that what you will.

Posted by Dominic Holden | January 18, 2008 8:57 PM

Oh, and TeamCanda, the ACLU is litigating two suits in Washington to challenge drug testing--on the basis that a urine test is a search requiring probable cause.

Posted by Dominic Holden | January 18, 2008 9:00 PM

#6: Thank you. I also love this line from the article: "other similarly nebulous conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome."

How is that syndrome "nebulous"? Sounds pretty straightforward to me.

Posted by me | January 18, 2008 9:28 PM

the average fibromyalgia patient in the 2007 survey reported weighing 180 pounds and standing 5 feet 4 inches.

that's pretty heavy...ok, at the risk of incurring the wrath of the fat activists, may i just wonder which came first: the weight or the disease? does anyone know? i mean, this is an intriguing correlation.

Posted by ellarosa | January 18, 2008 10:50 PM

Okay, so I DO have fibromyalgia; I was diagnosed with it about three months ago. And it is true, not many doctors or corporations recognize it as a real disease because there's no real "test" for fibromyalgia, no cure, and doctors don't really have a good understanding about how one gets it. (There are many theories, and you can find a few if you look up online.)

Fibromyalgia SUCKS. It's hard to get out of bed and concentrate and numerous other things. The syptoms go on and on. If doctors were more educated about this, they'd be able to diagnose it quicker and let people get help sooner.

Posted by murmurmur | January 19, 2008 8:37 AM

The student drug testing issue goes back to a Supreme Court decision out of Vernonia, Oregon, which you might have driven through if you've ever gone south out of Long Beach through Astoria. The majority opinion is fucking fascinating when they say that giving someone a cup of your pee isn't an invasion of privacy because, hey, athletes shower together. After Vernonia came another decision that said if it was OK for athletes it was OK for any student who participates in an extra-curricular activity, and after that Two Girls, One Cup became the law of the land.

OK, the last part might be an exaggeration.

@2: Bingo. I would have quit the activities if this had been required of me, and I was as straight-edge in high school as you could get.

Posted by Ryan | January 19, 2008 9:46 AM


It's nebulous because most conventional doctors don't know what to do about it.

Posted by keshmeshi | January 19, 2008 12:22 PM

I'd pee into a cup as soon as I got negative results back from all the teachers, administrators, lawyers, legislators, and judges involved.

Posted by Greg | January 19, 2008 12:43 PM

Dominic, I sympathize with people in pain but I wonder if ignoring the scientific method is the right way to help them. I have a (male) neighbor who is incapacitated by a mysterious illness - he thinks it's fibromyalgia. His pain is certainly real, but I wonder if assuming it's fibromyalgia and prescribing him some meds that are going to make him gain a bunch of weight and possibly do nothing, or - worse - spending a bunch of money on quack alternative healers, as he's currently doing - is really the best way to help him.

I'm female and I resent the implication that science is the province of men! What argument do you really have that fibromyalgia is a proper diagnosis, other than that the doctors quoted in the article questioning it are men?

Posted by Sister Y | January 19, 2008 1:23 PM

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 10 years ago (in my early twenties) and I still couldn't tell you if it exists or not. At the time I was about 110 lbs so it wasn't extra weight causing the problem. The problem was really weird muscle weakness (like suddenly not being able to open a normal door) and pains (like you have the flu, but all the time). Getting enough sleep and exercise is the only thing proven to help. Of course that's hard to do because pain can keep you up and exercise is painful too, but it's the only way. I'm a hypocrite, I tend to think fibromyalgia exists when I'm having a "pain day" and when I'm not...then I tend to think it's just stress and we're all a bunch of complainers. Either way it sucks to be denied disability insurance for it, since I've never missed a day of work for the pain in my life.

I can totally see how spending time on message boards consoling each other could make it worse though. Better to just get on with yer life.

Posted by jessiesk | January 19, 2008 2:57 PM

thankfully, you can still get good seeds from amsterdam :-)

Posted by bbilly | January 20, 2008 12:01 AM

One possible cause of fibromyalgia:
Lack of estrogen receptors. Seriously. I'll be the doctors have not yet looked into this but scientists have found that this causes all over body pain. Via Science News.

Posted by subwlf | January 21, 2008 1:20 PM

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