wtorek, 7 maja 2019

Council of Europe speech

Herewith I'm published a Council of Europe speech that has helped to tame up drug testing in the European schools. The background story behind it you can read here.

Dear experts and members of Ethical Platform,
Thanks very much for this opportunity to speak on the subject of drug prevention and drug testing in schools. I represent the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies - ENCOD, a platform of more that 100 organizations from Europe. Our members represent citizens who are either directly or indirectly affected by drug policies, as users, relatives of users, health agencies, research institutes, policy think tanks, prevention workers, activists and others.

Therefore I would like to present our views and opinions on drug abuse prevention and especially random drug testing in European schools.

Drugs of all sorts abound in our society. We are constantly confronted with a wide variety of substances that have recreational and medicinal uses and that can be purchased over the counter, by prescription, and illegally. Its important to note that many of them can and are used by people without making problems to themselves and society.

However, increasing drug use between young people and mass-media hysteria is sometimes leading decision makers to look for easy answers. Instead of trying to understand problem and find best solutions, usually under heavy lobbing, they are taking easy one, like drug testing. In past we had observed many attempts in different European countries to introduce random drug testing in schools. Fortunately they was usually dismissed because violation of constitutional rights to freedom and privacy.
For the safety and well being of young people, it is crucial to develop programs that effectively address drug use. But as scientifically evidences, from countries that implemented random drug testing in schools, shows it does not effectively reduce drug use among young people.

We believe that to be successful, drug abuse prevention programs must be grounded in research, compassion, and health. They must also promote trust and honest dialogue between adults and young people.

Why we say no to random drug testing

There are many reasons why we say no to random drug testing in our schools. Most fundamental is that, as many experts agree and all research on this topics shows, there is no scientifically evidence of effectives in reducing number of drug users. Instead of providing solution this strategy is leading to many problems and through this is counterproductive and do more harm that good. It costs a lot, leads to invasion of privacy and can undermine relationships of trust between students and teachers and between parents and their children;

Drug testing is expensive, taking away money from other, more effective programs that keep young people out of trouble with drugs. As data from United States shows drug testing costs schools an average of $42 per student tested, which amounts to $21,000 for a high school testing 500 students. This figure is for the initial test alone and does not include the costs of other routine components of drug testing, such as additional tests throughout the year or follow-up testing for positive results.

The cost of drug testing sometimes exceeds the total a school district spends on existing drug education, prevention, and counseling programs. In fact, drug testing may actually take scarce resources away from the health and treatment services necessary for students who are misusing drugs – seriously undermining the original purpose of the drug test.

Drug testing can result in false positives, leading to the punishment of innocent students. Over the counter decongestants may produce positive results for amphetamine. Codeine can produce a positive result for heroin. The consumption of food products with poppy seeds can produce a positive result for opiates.

Additionally, because marijuana, which is relative harmless and most popular illicit drug, but is the most detectable drug, that can be detected even month after intoxication, students may switch to drugs they think the test will not detect, like Ecstasy (MDMA) or inhalants. Knowing alcohol is less detectable, they may also engage in binge drinking, creating greater health and safety risks for students and the community as a whole.

In addition, students can outsmart the drug test. Introduction of such tests is leading to growth of anti-test market.  Students who fear being caught by a drug test may find ways to cheat the test, often by  purchasing products on the internet. A quick search on the Internet for “passing a drug test” yields over 80,400 hits, linking students to web sites providing information on how to pass drug test or selling drug-free replacement urine, herbal detoxifiers, hair follicle shampoo, and other products designed to beat the drug test.

Drug testing says very little about who is misusing or abusing drugs. Hundreds or even thousands of students might be tested in order to detect a tiny fraction of students who may have used the drugs covered by the test. Additionally, students misusing other harmful substances not detected by drug tests will not be identified. If schools rely on drug testing, they may undervalue better ways of detecting young people who are having problems with drugs. Most often, problematic drug use is discovered by learning to recognize its common symptoms. Teachers, coaches, and other school officials can identify students with a drug problem by paying attention to such signs as student absences, erratic behavior, changes in grades, and withdrawal from peers

There is of course much more arguments against  drug tests that you can find in booklets I gave you. But even this few shows that such strategy is ineffective and expensive. There are much better drug abuse prevention solutions that could be implemented.
Alternatives to drug testing
There are alternatives to drug testing which emphasize education, discussion, counseling, extracurricular activities, and build trust between students and adults. Schools and civil society should help engage students in extracurricular activities, and athletics since these are among the best deterrents for drug misuse.

Since decisions to use drugs of all kinds is ongoing, quality drug education should be incorporated into a broad range of science classes, including physiology, chemistry,
and biology, as well as psychology, history, and sociology. Drug education should avoid dishonest scare tactics, and it should also recognize the wide spectrum of drug use and misuse, and the reasons why young people might choose to use (or not use) drugs.
Schools should provide counseling for students who are using drugs in a way that is causing harm to themselves or others. An emerging model, which stresses relationships between students.  Counselors who teach about drugs can remain an important resource for students after the formal session ends.

Trust and respect are perhaps the most important elements of a relationship with teens. Young people who have the confidence of their parents and teachers, and are expected to assume responsibility for their actions, are the most likely, in turn, to act responsibly. Schools, if want to be effective in this should ensure that students:

  • Receive comprehensive, science-based information on all substances (including tobacco and alcohol)
  • Receive help when they need it; and
  • Stay busy and involved in productive activities when the school day ends.
We believe, that many members of our coalitions, because they are trusted by drug using people, could help in such hard task.
Thank you very much. I’m waiting for your questions.

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