A supportive school environment results in fewer kids using cigarettes and marijuana compared to a school that uses drug testing, according to recent research out of Rutgers University. However, neither strategy is particularly helpful in reducing teen drinking.
The study, published in the Journal on Studies of Alcohol and Drugs, used data from the National Annenberg Survey of Youth (NASY), an annual telephone survey of American adolescents. Participants were between the ages of 14 and 18 and follow-up was conducted one year from initial contact.
Students were asked if they had ever smoked a cigarette, drank alcohol, or smoked marijuana or hashish. For those who responded yes, frequency of use was assessed. They were then asked if they thought their schools had a positive environment and/or if they were aware of student drug testing in their schools. A “positive school climate” was identified as one that fostered healthy relationships between teachers and students.
Student drug testing was not associated with a reduction in the initiation of smoking cigarettesor marijuana in the study period. Conversely, a positive school environment was, for both substances.
Student drug testing has been a controversial practice since its inception. Some studies show that about 30%of schools use some amount of drug testing, for instance for participationin sports. These programs most often test for marijuana, but they are used for alcohol and other drugs as well. Based on the results of this study, fostering good relationships between students and teachers may a better strategy for schools who want to keep teens off drugs (Sznitman SR & Romer D, J Stud Alcohol Drugs 2014;75(1):65–73).
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