Pubdate: Thu, 04 Apr 2002
Source: Times Union (NY)
Copyright: 2002 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation
Author: Robert Sharpe


In her March 25 column on the Supreme Court review of an Oklahoma School 
District's drug testing policy, Marianne Means argues that a constitutional 
exemption for the drug testing is "common sense.'' I beg to differ. Student 
involvement in extracurricular activities has been shown to reduce drug 
use. They keep kids busy during the hours they are most prone to getting 
into trouble. Forcing students to undergo degrading drug tests as a 
prerequisite will only discourage such activities.

Drug testing also may compel marijuana smokers to switch to harder drugs to 
avoid testing positive. Despite a short-lived high, marijuana is the only 
drug that stays in the human body long enough to make urinalysis a 
deterrent. Marijuana's organic metabolites are fat-soluble and can linger 
for weeks. Harder drugs like cocaine and heroin are water-soluble and exit 
the body within a few days. A student who takes ecstasy Friday night will 
likely test clean Monday morning. If you think students don't know this, 
think again. Anyone capable of running a search on the Internet can find 
out how to thwart a drug test. Ironically, the least dangerous recreational 
drug (marijuana) is the only one whose use is discouraged by testing.

Drug testing profiteers do not volunteer this information for obvious 
reasons. The most commonly abused drug is almost impossible to detect with 
urinalysis. That drug is alcohol. It takes far more lives every year than 
all illegal drugs combined. Instead of wasting money on counterproductive 
drug tests, schools should invest in reality-based drug education.


Program Officer Drug Policy Alliance Washington, D.C.
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