Pediatricians Continue to Resist the Government's Urine Grab

In the latest issue of its journal, the American Academy of Pediatrics reiterates its opposition to drug testing in schools:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has strong reservations about testing adolescents at school or at home and believes that more research is needed on both safety and efficacy before school-based testing programs are implemented. The American Academy of Pediatrics also believes that more adolescent-specific substance abuse treatment resources are needed to ensure that testing leads to early rehabilitation rather than to punitive measures only...

Currently, there is little evidence of the effectiveness of school-based drug testing in the scientific literature....

Drug testing poses substantial risks—in particular, the risk of harming the parent-child and school-child relationships by creating an environment of resentment, distrust, and suspicion. In addition to the effects on the individual adolescent, the safety and efficacy of random drug testing requires additional scientific evaluation. Broad implementation of random drug testing as a component of a comprehensive drug-use prevention program should await the results of these studies.

The position statement also notes the lack of drug testing expertise at schools, the risks of false positives and false negatives, the short detection window for most drugs (marijuana being a conspicuous exception), and the ease with which tests can be beaten. It recommends further research, urges "health care professionals who obtain drug tests or assist others in interpreting the results" to brush up on the subject, and "encourages parents who are concerned that their child may be using drugs or alcohol to consult their child's primary care physician or other health professional rather than rely on school-based drug screening or use home drug-testing products."

The AAP is clearly leaving open the possibility that it will one day change its stance on this issue, and that last recommendations smacks a little of special pleading (although it sounds like sensible advice). The academy's continued resistance to routine drug testing of kids, which surveys suggest is shared by the vast majority of pediatricians, is nonetheless welcome. As I noted a few years ago, pediatricians' skepticism about drug testing is even expressed in a pamphlet, co-produced by the AAP and the PTA, that is distributed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, despite the Bush administration's enthusiasm for collecting kids' urine.

[Thanks to the Drug Policy Alliance for the tip.]

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  • ||

    I wabn't particularly aware of the short window for detection of non-marijuana drugs. Were I so inclined, and if I expected to be tested, that would be a pretty strong incentive to use something different -- and probably stronger or more dangerous -- than pot.

  • ||

    "If this test comes out positive, urine a heap o' trouble, boy!"

  • ||

    ...and the ease with which tests can be beaten.

    For future reference, right handed men don't hold it with their left. Just one of those things.

  • Guy||

    MikeP - I was pretty sure, but I went ahead and double checked. It's not a universal truth.

  • ||

    Why does the American Academy of Pediatrics hate America?

  • ||

    Would it be too much to ask for the teachers and all elected govt. officials to take the same tests on a regular basis? It would seem that their responsibility is much greater.

  • ||

    I once worked for a company that required drug tests, mostly because they employed both suits like me and hardhats, and the hardhats wouldn't test unless we had to do so. I learned from that experience that pot stays in the human system about a month, but cocaine only lasts at most 12 hours. I also learned that most industrial accidents where any kind of intoxicant were implicated involved booze, by a disturbingly huge margin, but the company didn't test for blood alcohol unless there was an accident. I came away from the experience completely cynical. It was the first step on the road to my current opposition to the drug war. Also, part of that job involved doing criminal background checks for our construction employees. The percentage of guys with drug convictions involving jail time was around 50. None of them were bad or dangerous employees and none that I recall had any accidents. (Some may have caused problems after I left or had some issues I wasn't aware of during my tenure.)

    Anyway, I also learned from that experience that the best way to know if one's employees or students are stoned is to open one's eyes. Good supervisors could tell if a guy was using from 50 yards. I analogize from this experience that teachers could do the same thing. If a kid is stoned at school, it should be really bloody obvious. Testing doesn't do anything.

    Of course, if they made those implant tracking chips so they could receive a signal, I'd have both my sons marked, and program my computer to track them and send a sharp electric jolt if the chip detected blood alcohol or metabolites of certain illegal drugs. Much more efficient.

  • ||

    Guy, talk to the people who scripted Gattaca.

  • ||

    "If a kid is stoned at school, it should be really bloody obvious. Testing doesn't do anything."

    I don't think the tests are meant to find (only) students who are stoned at school, but to find students who are using drugs at all (in the past however many days/weeks, depending on the drug).

    Of course some folks like to pretend that a positive test means you're stoned right then, like people who cite statistics about the number of people involved in auto accidents who test positive for marijuana and then dishonestly (or just stupidly) claim that all those people were driving stoned.

  • ||

    Good point Sparky.

  • ||

    Obligatory "They can have my urine when they pry it from my et cetera et cetera" post.

  • ||

    I have no problem with testing student-athletes for performance enhancing drugs, anymore then I mind checks of body weight for wrestlers. Using steroids is a form of cheating that undermines the rules of the game. The "game" may seem silly to adults but I can remember when being an athlete pretty much summed up my worth. However, testing for recreational drugs in the general student body is a blatant violation of the fourth amendment.

  • ||

    I learned from that experience that pot stays in the human system about a month, but cocaine only lasts at most 12 hours.

    Just a small FYI.

    Everything I have read/heard indicates that it takes up to about a month for habitual/regular pot users but people who only do it occasionaly/once in a while it can be out of your system in about 7 days.

  • I forgot my name||

    "occasionaly/once in a while"

    Where's the fun in that?
    I don't have a drug problem...I can afford them.

  • ||

    sam_h,

    Is it very common for high school student-athletes to be tested for steroids, etc? I've heard much less about this than about testing for pot and other recreational drugs - my uninformed impression was that most school drug testing focussed on the latter. I agree that steroid testing is a lot easier to justify.

  • ||

    It's the goddamned Soviets! They're draining our children of their precious fluids!

  • ||

    Teach your kids the following phrase:

    "Not without a warrant, you fascist motherfucker."

    -jcr

  • ||

    "...to ensure that testing leads to early rehabilitation rather than to punitive measures only"

    This sticks out like a sore thumb to me. A mommyfascist isn't a good replacement for a daddyfascist.

  • ||

    jcr--

    A better one is: "You want a urine sample? Open wide and say aahh."

    OK, maybe yours is better.

  • ||

    People: IT'S FOR THE CHILDREN!!!!!

    But, really, given the public school system's track record on their, ummm, primary job, educating, should we expect them to demonstrate anything higher than D+ level expertise at random drug testing?

    I'm with John C. Randolph on this one.

  • ||

    Cocaine can be detected for up to 48-72 hours.

  • I. Self. Divine.||

    What I see as one of th biggest problems here is that the only kids they're going to catch are the occasional users. The "druggies" all know how to beat the test. Hell, I managed to pass a drug test (not school issued) less than 48 hours after a week filled with pot, meth, coke, and E.

  • ||

    "I'm with John C. Randolph on this one."

    So am I, but... Remember "implied consent" to blood alcohol testing for drivers? I suspect the Supreme Court views attendence as consent. Commie bastards.

  • ||

    I suspect the Supreme Court views attendence as consent.

    That would be odd, considering that attendance is mandatory.

  • ||

    When you look at how transparently stupid most of the pro-testing arguments are, it's hard not to come to the conspiracy-minded conclusion that the real purpose is to inculcate obedience to authority.

  • Dave W.||

    the pro-testing arguments are, it's hard not to come to the conspiracy-minded conclusion that the real purpose is to inculcate obedience to authority.

    Actually, the conspiracy minded conclusion is that they want to trim the college loan program. If so, a pro-libertarian outcome, I guess.

  • JD||

    I always thought that the workplace drug tests were pretty pointless, because if you can't tell that your employees are users, why do you care? We always get the speeches about how users have higher absenteeism rates, make more mistakes, have more accidents, etc., but it is never explained why those are not addressed directly. Make a pest of yourself about it, and you will only earn a lecture from the nannyish True Believer running the program.

    I've also wondered if there isn't another way to beat drug tests, by doing it on another level. Assuming that you're not a constant user: you take a drug test and fail. When they notify you of this, loudly assert that the result can't possibly be right. Demand a retest. Mention false positive rates. Make vague legal threats if they don't seem compliant. That should eat up at least one more day, and possibly several...which gives you that much more time to get it out of your system.

    Just for the record, I don't use any kind of illegal substance; I just have my pride.

  • ||

    JD: High on pride!

    I like it.

  • ||

    JD, while I completely agree with following that approach should you fail (just in case the person you're talking to doesn't know any better) most drug testing involves a cheap easy-to-fool test first, and if you come out positive they re-test using a more expensive, and much more reliable and hard to fool method. You're much better off putting your energy into fooling the first round, or avoiding the test entirely.

  • Dave W.||

    I've also wondered if there isn't another way to beat drug tests, by doing it on another level. Assuming that you're not a constant user: you take a drug test and fail. When they notify you of this, loudly assert that the result can't possibly be right. Demand a retest. Mention false positive rates. Make vague legal threats if they don't seem compliant. That should eat up at least one more day, and possibly several...which gives you that much more time to get it out of your system.

    When my employer wanted me to sign a consent form, they made us prospectively give up the right to challenge the result or sue anybody, including the testing lab.

    I wasn't taking any illegal substances at the time, but I left anyway, out of pride. Got another job in a less conservative state.

    Considerable personal sacrifice was involved, but that is the libertarian way and a big part of the reason I have amazing libertarian bona fides. Some talk it. I walk it.

    Last I heard, the employer had backed down after several deadlines had passed. It was one time in my career I wished for a union. Would have been much less disruptive to my life to have a union take care of that, instead of an ad hoc collection of employees willing to stand on principle.

  • ||

    Whos is gonna foot the bill for all the rehab taking place to keep little johhny from punitive measures? Are the kids gonna dime each other out to get a better spot on the team or make the cheer squad? If so, wont that lead to more Columbine type things? If the boys arent stoned , will they be more persuasive to the young ladies about the coochie? Which will result in more teen pregnancy?

  • Jason||

    I certainly hope that testing will lead to a crackdown on ritalin users.

  • LarryA||

    A key issue at the heart of the drug-testing dilemma is the lack of developmentally appropriate adolescent substance abuse and mental health treatment.

    A bigger issue is whether the schools doing the testing are even interested in treatment.

    Kid takes test. Test results positive. Now what?

    I have the feeling that the school solution will be to call the cops. They arrest the kid, take him downtown, and try to turn him into a snitch. (A high-risk profession.) Meanwhile the kid gets a permanent arrest record that kills his chances of military service, college loans, various government jobs, and so forth. (Not counting what restrictions may be placed on him later.) All this to teach him about the dangers of drug abuse.

    Or they can divert him into rehab, which can also give him a permanent record, and cuts off abruptly when the insurance money runs out.

    Given zero tolerance, it's getting to where the safest course of action for the student drug user is for the school and parents to help hide the condition.

    Of course that means you are living with a drug user, and if the cops catch any of his friends or suppliers making yourself and your family/school a target for a SWAT drug raid. So the best solution for school and family is to immediately dump the user on the street.

    It's for the children.

  • LarryA||

    The AAP encourages parents who are concerned that their child may be using drugs or alcohol to consult their child's primary care physician or other health professional rather than rely on school-based drug screening or use home drug-testing products.

    Same question: Given zero tolerance, what's the primary care physician going to do with a positive result?

  • Hedley LaMarr||

    [consults legal tome] grab. grab... see 'snatch'.

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