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Drug Screenings: Should We Screen All NJ High School Students?

Across the country, in different contexts, legislators and the voting public are considering how and when the use of drug screening is effective and appropriate. For example, Florida attempted to institute mandatory drug testing for welfare applicants and recipients but soon found that the endeavor cost taxpayers far more than it saved in identifying those who were fraudulently using support services to maintain an addiction. Similarly, in Colorado and other states where marijuana is legal for medical and/or recreational use, the issue of how and when drug testing is legal and appropriate in the workplace has been in front of the courts on multiple occasions.

Now, in New Jersey, Senator Joseph Vitale is proposing that all New Jersey high school students should be subject to an annual drug test in order to assist parents in identifying a drug problem that might otherwise have been missed. Senator Vitale believes that the mandatory drug test should be given to all high school-aged kids in New Jersey, whether they attend a charter school or a public or private institution, but he would also like to improve training among school professionals that would aid in identifying other signs of drug abuse and addiction among high school kids.

Said Senator Vitale: “We would train substance abuse counselors, guidance counselors, the certified school nurse, they’d be trained to identify certain things that a student might be undergoing or to identify possible abuse.”

Assistance would stop there, however. Senator Vitale’s proposed changes focus primarily on identifying a potential substance abuse issue and would not offer treatment. Rather, referrals and suggestions for counseling and treatment would be offered to parents.

Additionally, Senator Vitale emphasized that participation in the program would be voluntary. He said: “We would certainly allow parents to opt out if they didn’t want their student screened for that, but we think it’s worked in other places, and it’s helped students with recovery.”

He also points out that the results of the testing would be a private matter and not shared with police or any other organization.

Senator Vitale said: “It’s absolutely confidential. This is between the student and their parent or their guardian. This is not public information. This is all protected. And nothing is mandated, nothing is required, no one gets in trouble. It’s just that we want to be able to help identify these students because the problem does exist.”

Against?

It is hard to imagine that anyone would be against a voluntary program that would help to identify kids who are struggling with drug or alcohol abuse and inform their parents of the problem so an appropriate course of action can be taken. Certainly, it is clear that deaths due to inadvertent drug overdose are only on the rise across New Jersey and that every effort to identify those people who are at risk can help to save lives.

Painkiller Abuse to Heroin Use

Too often, painkiller abuse during high school – or use of pills that are stored in the family medicine cabinet for recreational purposes – is the first step down the path toward a lifelong opiate addiction or fatal overdose. Mandatory drug testing can help to identify the students who are struggling early on and get them help sooner rather than later. As a result, they could potentially avoid all the horrific repercussions that go with untreated substance use disorders. Giving parents the information they need to make an informed decision and take action when a child is struggling may be a good way to save lives in New Jersey.

What Do You Think?

It is irrefutable that there is a serious opiate addiction epidemic that is destroying lives across the state and across the country. Helping kids to avoid falling into the trap of opiate addiction is an essential piece in the puzzle as we work together to fight the sweeping problem. Do you think that Senator Vitale’s proposal to drug test all high school kids in New Jersey is an effective option that will have the desired effect of helping kids in need to get treatment? Or do you think that another method of help would be more appropriate?