Study Will Ask If Testing Curbs Teen Drug Abuse 

Study Will Ask If Testing Curbs Teen Drug Abuse 
Posted by FoM on July 08, 2000 at 09:28:30 PT
By Brian T. Meehan of The Oregonian Staff 
Source: The Oregonian
A three-year OHSU project will look at the effect of random drug tests involving athletes at several Oregon high schools. In the first research project of its kind, Oregon Health Sciences University will launch a three-year study this fall to discover if drug testing of high school athletes discourages substance abuse.
The study, financed by a $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, will involve 18 Oregon high schools, from Sherman County in the high desert to Astoria and Newport on the coast. What About Teen Privacy? Student athletes at nine schools will face random drug tests; the other nine schools will serve as a control. Athletes will complete surveys so researchers can gauge drug testing's impact on teen-age behaviors and attitudes. The research comes at a time when high schools nationally have implemented mandatory drug testing for athletes despite concerns about privacy and constitutional rights. "I don't know if drug testing works," said Dr. Linn Goldberg, a professor of medicine at OHSU and the study's principal investigator. "No one knows; it's never been looked at. That's why we are doing this study." Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for high school drug testing when it upheld a policy in Vernonia. The logging town 45 miles west of Portland began testing urine samples from middle school and high school athletes in 1989. "Our kids became overt about it," said Randall Aultman, then principal at Vernonia high. Two football players later admitted playing in a 1988 game while high on methamphetamines. The disclosure provided momentum for a radical approach. The district began testing with little dissent among parents. Athletes were tested at the start of a season and then randomly. Results were confidential, and athletes who tested positive were given a choice of suspension or treatment. Vernonia focused on sports because of a safety concern, although Goldberg says research indicates athletes are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than nonathletes. In 1991, James Acton, a prospective Vernonia middle school football player, sued the district, claiming the policy violated his Fourth Amendment rights to privacy. The school district won in federal court but lost before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the appellate court. School officials today say the program has curbed drug use. "We feel it has an effect on kids," said Mike Durbin, the current principal. "Not only does it keep them away from drugs, it gives them a real reason to say no when peer pressure comes into play." A Nationwide Impact: The Vernonia decision changed anti-drug policies at many American high schools. While no organization tracks high school drug testing, Aultman says, at least 350 schools have begun programs. A handful of Oregon schools --including Vernonia, Paisley, Marshfield, Butte Falls, Prospect, Willamina, Wahtonka and Madras -- already are testing athletes. At Madras High, eight students have tested positive in three years. Most went into intervention programs and continued to participate in sports. "The students joke about it a bit: They say it's whiz quiz time," said Margaret Sturza, Madras athletic director, adding, "One thing some people are concerned about are that some kids are doing things to mask the results." The Internet is full of products to defeat drug testing. Alex Hiller, who graduated this spring from Madras as student body president, said some search for ways to beat the test. "The drug testing is not in-depth enough to catch a lot of things," the three-sport athlete said. "Kids know how to get around it." Hiller said Madras' program would be more effective if the testing were more elaborate and if more athletes were tested. After an initial test at the start of the season, the school screens about 10 percent of the athletes every two weeks. Following Protocol: The OHSU program will follow protocol developed at the Olympic Games. Urine samples will be tested for narcotics; cocaine; methamphetamines; phencyclidine, or PCP; marijuana; anabolic steroids; and alcohol. Alcohol testing also will be done with a breath analyzer. Student athletes, who must accept the testing to be eligible for sports, will be selected for testing by a random lottery. Goldberg, who also is an Olympic-certified drug tester, developed an award-winning program to educate high school athletes about the dangers of anabolic steroids, illegal drugs used to build muscle mass. The Atlas program, which visited 31 Portland area high schools, stresses good nutrition and informed weight-lifting to build strength and size. Goldberg began drafting the drug-testing program, called Saturn, after the Supreme Court's Vernonia decision. "Schools were implementing drug testing with no evidence that it worked," he said. Preliminary results from a pilot study he ran this past year at three Oregon high schools showed marijuana use dropped where drug testing occurred. He said alcohol use also declined. No Portland Schools: The Saturn program did not solicit Portland area schools out of concern that students could transfer to skirt drug testing. Goldberg selected schools based on demographics, matching testing sites with control schools. The schools in the program are Taft, Toledo, Newport, Waldport, Eddyville, Philomath, Dallas, Silverton, McKenzie, Scio, Creswell, Astoria, Warrenton, Sherman County, Oakridge, Monroe, Gervais and Mill City. The federal grant will pay for the testing, which costs about $100 a sample, and physicians will monitor the program. "This will be the type of study that will establish a research base so we can make intelligent decisions to benefit our kids," said Dave Novotney, principal of Dallas High School. But not everyone heralds drug testing as a positive force. "We need to be concerned about a society that is more and more encroaching on people's privacy," said Anthony Biglan, a senior scientist with the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene. Biglan, a consultant for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, is torn: He favors learning more about drug testing but worries about civil rights. "It may be that this does have a beneficial effect in preventing drug use," said Biglan, a past president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. "But if we had random roadblocks to screen people for criminal stuff, if we went into homes, we could find out what illegal activities were going on, too. The question is, where do we draw the line?" The ACLU Stand: The ACLU believes the line should exclude drug testing. David Fidanque, the ACLU's executive director, contends the Oregon Constitution affords greater protection for privacy rights than its federal counterpart. He said his organization is looking for a case to challenge student testing in state court. "We believe suspicionless drug testing is a serious violation of the privacy rights of students and families, and we intend to pursue that," Fidanque said. "The government always has good reasons for violating constitutional rights. That doesn't make it OK." Tom Christ, the Portland lawyer who represented James Acton in the Vernonia case, believes the issue is unresolved despite the Supreme Court ruling. State constitutions can offer more protection. And Christ said the U.S. Supreme Court gives schoolchildren fewer rights than adults. It also uses a balancing test in privacy cases, weighing societal benefits against individual rights. Christ said the Oregon Supreme Court does not distinguish between adults and children regarding basic rights and does not use a balancing test. Goldberg says the ACLU in the Vernonia case contended that drug testing had never been proved effective. "It would seem they would be very interested if this worked," he said. "If it didn't, it would add more fuel to their argument. Can they handle the truth or not? In science, we are just looking for the truth." You can reach Brian Meehan at 503-221-4341 or by e-mail at: brianmeehan news.oregonian.comAre You For Or Against This Test?Vote in the Poll: Drug Testing Uses and Abuses in The Zone Forum: Friday, July 7, 2000Copyright 2000 Oregon Live. CannabisNews Drug Testing Archives:
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Comment #1 posted by Carlos Lehder on July 12, 2000 at 20:30:03 PT
economic motives
Hitler gained power in part because he provided big business with economic motives for his war (Krupp) and his gas chambers (xyclon B was big business then). This government has done the same thing:    private prisons - Wackenhut $150 Million          Corrections Corp of Am. $200 Million  drug testing - Questa Diagnostics, market cap $4Billionand thousands of other companies involved in making IR sensors for marijuana, helicopters, it's endless.  These companies have the money to keep drugs illegal. they have powerful lobbysts in Washington. The government knows it can carry out its disgusting policies at a huge discount by intorducing economic forces that are permanent to the economy. So most people, ignorant as they are, get all their information from television, paid for by these companies and by public funds. Meanwhile, more informed people who are computer and language literate, sing to the choir on these boards. Money is needed to get the drug issue on TV where both sides can be seen.
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