Current Drug testing in Britain

Recently, the British Prime Minister Mr. Tony Blair gave an interview to the News of the World newspaper. In a paper more noted for salacious stories it was a sober affair. Reflecting on 6 years in power , he said “I’ve had lumps kicked out of me ….but I’m tougher than ever”. In the wide ranging interview, Mr. Blair introduced his newest plan -random drug testing in schools.

Mr. Blair’s government does not seem to know what to do about the drugs problem. They ignore evidence from other countries on what works to lower the incidence of drug use and rely instead upon advice from so-called experts – many of whom have been advocating the relaxation of drug laws for years.

Re-classifying Cannabis has sent out totally the wrong message to our youth who mostly now believe that cannabis is (a) legal and (b) harmless. The government rushes in to Spend £1 million on a campaign to tell people that cannabis is (a) not legal and (b) harmful.

More money is being spent on treatment – and with this we have no argument. People who have problems from drug use need all the help and treatment they can get to become drug free and contributory members of society again. Treatment is always expensive – and there is the ‘revolving door’ syndrome where users enter treatment for a few weeks or months, return to society and often begin using again – once the use results in a more chaotic lifestyle again the user returns to treatment. Relapse is common and costs money.

Mr. Blair’s new idea – random drug testing – has resulted in the inevitable dichotomy between those who approve of the plan and those who regard it as a great infringement of personal liberty. Some organizations who want drug laws relaxed are scaremongering by suggesting that pupils know that cannabis stays in the body for longer than many other drugs and so would stop using cannabis and instead turn to Ecstasy or Heroin. This is very unlikely since the majority of young people who do use cannabis whilst at school do so because they believe it is harmless – they do not use so-called ‘hard’ drugs because they know they are harmful. Understandably the teaching profession have expressed great concern about the time, costs and legal ramifications of testing. A large majority of parents think it is an excellent idea – and, surprisingly to some, most young people agree with it.

The NDPA have seen evidence of the success of drug testing in America and Australia and work closely with a Belgian colleage who has made a study of drug testing. One of our colleagues has also worked in Restorative Justice and this could be tied in with drug testing. Many companies in the USA and the UK have introduced random drug tests amongst their work force and this has cut down accident and absence rates and staff turnover . Therefore, our belief is that there is mileage in using random drug tests in schools – provided they are handled sensitively. It would need all schools and colleges to ‘opt in’ to be a total success – and schools would need financial help to cover the inevitable costs. And schools need to consider that random drug testing should not belinked to punishing or excluding pupils who test positive.

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