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Assess Drug Use

Preparation is key to any successful drug-testing program. Long before testing begins, make sure you have covered all the bases and taken the important first steps, as outlined below.

Collect data. For some schools, prevention and education programs may be sufficient responses to the drug threat. For others, more powerful tools are needed to help reduce student drug use. The first thing you must determine, then, is whether your school would actually benefit from a drug-testing program. This is done through a needs assessment.

To assess your school's need, you must have facts - solid documentation that can help you determine the scope and characteristics of your drug problem. Data about drug use in the area also can provide a baseline from which to measure the effectiveness of your testing program later on. Some schools find it helpful to establish an advisory committee or task force to help with data collection and assessment. Such a group might consist of school administrators, students, teachers, parents, student assistance counselors, coaches, club advisors, and representatives from local treatment programs and police departments.

Keep records regarding drug paraphernalia or residue found in or around the school. Look also at indirect evidence, such as local police reports and overdose data in the aggregate, to help fill out the picture. Local treatment programs can provide useful information about drug use by students without breaching the confidentiality of their individual patients.

Government-funded surveys such as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) , Monitoring the Future , and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey all have drug-use questions that can be adapted for a school survey. A number of States as well as private, nonprofit organizations can also provide support and survey materials designed to reflect student drug and alcohol use. Student surveys can pinpoint which drugs your students are using and, in turn, help you decide which drugs to target in your test panel.