eye of the cyclone

is there life on earth, or are we just dreaming…


    SEARCH BOX: If a search engine brought you here, but you can't see what you are looking for, or if you want to find other entries with the same (or differerent) 'key words' try the SEARCH BOX! or check out the ALL POSTS! button in the MENU BAR at the top of the page
  • Advertisements

Should all school students be drug tested? (part 2 in the series)

Posted by irisheaven on September 5, 2006

part one, part three

ABC Broadcast: 18/08/2006

Reporter: Ian Henschke
This week anti drugs MP Ann Bressington called for compulsory drug tests for all public and private high school students. It’s reignited the debate about how we deal with the issue of drugs. So tonight we’ve asked her and leading drugs researcher, Dr David Caldicott from the Emergency Department at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, to discuss the issue. Dr Caldicott has called for a different type of testing, testing of drugs used at rave parties to protect party goers. But firstly Ann Bressington, what approach should we be taking to drugs?
ANN BRESSINGTON, INDEPENDENT MP: Well, I don’t think there’s any one approach that we can take. I think that the main thing is to get the message out there to our kids that drug use is not okay, that there are long term harmful effects to drugs and we should use a range of strategies to get that message out there. Obviously what we’re doing currently isn’t getting the message out enough.
IAN HENSCHKE: And you think compulsory testing of all students would work?
ANN BRESSINGTON: Well, it’s shown in the United States and the UK that it was successful in a trial of 67 high schools in Indiana, a 40 per cent reduction in the number of drug-related suspensions; 98 per cent of principals stated that they observed that it definitely discouraged drug use in our teens.
IAN HENSCHKE: What about you, Dr Caldicott?
DR DAVID CALDICOTT, DRUG RESEARCHER, RAH: Look, I have a different opinion. I think the study that Ms Bressington quotes is not a scientific one. It comes from the Bible Belt of middle America. It has not been replicated in any of the literature anywhere. The American Academy of Paediatrics, the highest peak body for paediatrics in the United States, has come out very strongly against mandatory drug testing; as has the National Association of Public Health. And indeed the largest study in the world, the Monitoring the Future study, the man who runs that, is also against mandatory testing.
IAN HENSCHKE: What should we do then?
DR DAVID CALDICOTT: I think education is critical. I think we need to inform, in a non-moralising way, young people about the potential harms of drug use. To berate them, to make anything compulsory, to do anything other than let them arrive at their own conclusions with the information they require is patronising.
IAN HENSCHKE: Do you believe in that then?
ANN BRESSINGTON: I think this is the core of our problem, this discourse that’s created in these kind of debates where one sort of research is demonised and the other sort of research is put up there as the be-all and end-all. There are two sides of research and there are two arguments here: anti drugs which I’ve been dubbed to be, or pro drugs and that’s not necessarily the case either.
IAN HENSCHKE: Are you saying that Dr Caldicott is pro drugs?
ANN BRESSINGTON: No, I’m saying that’s the labels that are put out there. And we need to start coming together on this and agreeing that both sides have valid research that needs to be considered, and that’s where we’re going to get that balance of the approach that we need.

IAN HENSCHKE: What about a parent who’s watching this. They’re confused now. We just heard there is a professor there. You’re saying Bible Belt.

DR DAVID CALDICOTT: I think they shouldn’t be confused. This is not an accepted policy anywhere around the world, and parents need to ask themselves whether they want to be the test ground for a policy which will degrade the trust between teachers and students, between parents and students, and may in fact force young people into using drugs they cannot be tested for by current testing mechanisms.

IAN HENSCHKE: What about the parents who say if we brought this policy in there would be less drugs at school?

DR DAVID CALDICOTT: There may well be: I accept that. It may drive drug use to a place where they cannot be monitored. It may encourage people not to discuss drugs. I think we should be debating drugs in school. I think young people should be encouraged to talk about their drug use and to talk about it with people who know what they’re talking about. If you just introduce something like this without discussions with the students, without involving the students, what you are going to do is drive the problem elsewhere and underground.

ANN BRESSINGTON: You know, when we say we need to consult with students, I have consulted with students. I’ve been going to high schools for seven years and I’ve discussed this with students. I’ve discussed it with parents. And I do have the support of parents and teachers. I don’t have the support of the bureaucratic peak bodies that run the government councils. But I received hundreds of calls yesterday and emails, with people offering their support for this school drug testing. Parents are lost, teachers are lost and students are lost. They don’t know what to do when they have drug-using kids in their school.

IAN HENSCHKE: Is politics interfering with good drugs policy?

ANN BRESSINGTON: No. I’m not that kind of a politician. My background is 11 years in treatment and rehabilitation. I have listened to recovered drug users and they get angry about the sort of approaches.

IAN HENSCHKE: Dr Caldicott, your response: is politics interfering with drugs policy?

DR DAVID CALDICOTT: I think it quite clearly is. I think you have a given vocal small demographic groups who have got very fixed ideas about what drugs policy should be. I think politicians are riding the bandwagon. I think Ms Bressington isn’t. I think Ms Bressington is very honest and genuine. However, I think her research support is lacking.

IAN HENSCHKE: So do you think she’s wrong though?

DR DAVID CALDICOTT: I do, I think she’s very wrong, but I think her heart is in the right place. I think there are far worse people who are riding this purely for electoral success.

IAN HENSCHKE: All right, Ann Bressington, to sum up then, someone sitting at home watching this, you are serious about this: you want drug testing brought in, in every high school in the state.

ANN BRESSINGTON: I want it considered. It’s a piece of legislation that’s been introduced for debate, and I have said that if the government isn’t prepared to run with this, to have a pilot program, let’s test it and see.

IAN HENSCHKE: David Caldicott?

DR DAVID CALDICOTT: I think it’s very important in Australia that parents understand how drugs policy is being decided and formulated. I think that medicine and science is being sidelined and I think ideology is taking over. This is a very dangerous time in Australia: we have to be very careful that we get back to the science, back to the medicine, and if Ms Bressington is committed to that, I’ll support her.

IAN HENSCHKE: Thanks both for your time.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.