Pubdate: Fri, 16 Aug 2002
Source: Log Cabin Democrat (AR)
Copyright: 2002 The Log Cabin Democrat
Author: Dr. Linn Goldberg
Note: The author is director of sports medicine at Oregon Health and 
Science University and U.S. Olympic Committee crew chief for drug surveillance.


Drug testing is a legal option for schools to try to reduce the
widespread problem with substance abuse. However, no one knows whether
it is an effective way to prevent drug and alcohol use. As a substance
abuse prevention researcher, physician and father of five, I know how
important drug and alcohol prevention is. I have read some of the
articles and feedback from parents regarding this issue, published in
the Log Cabin Democrat, and intimately understand the controversy
However, no matter what you believe about drug testing, it is not yet
proven to reduce substance use among teens, because it has never been
tested in a scientific manner.

As the principal investigator for the only study to ask the question,
"Does drug testing reduce drug use?" funded by the National Institute
on Drug Abuse, we hope to learn whether testing discourages drug use,
or is just a big waste of money. I would discourage school districts
from using drug testing as a policy until there is solid evidence
showing it is effective. You wouldn't choose a surgeon to operate on
your child if the doctor had never proven he or she could perform the
surgery, and similarly I don't think it would be wise to spend money
on a program for children that has not been shown to be successful.

Importantly, there are other options. Both the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education have
numerous certified programs that work. These programs have stood the
test of intense scientific scrutiny. Recently, I was in Little Rock,
implementing our evidence-based ATLAS program into a number of school
districts. ATLAS is a male-athlete drug-prevention and
health-promotion program that has reduced new alcohol, illicit drug
and anabolic steroid use by 50 percent. It also has improved
nutrition, reduced sport supplement use and made athletes feel better
about themselves. Other evidence-based programs for students have been
similarly effective.

The results of our SATURN program will be available in a little over
one year. At that time, we should be able to give school districts
better information about the effects of drug testing so better
informed decisions can be made. Until then, it makes sense to wait.

Dr. Linn Goldberg
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