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.]