A recent study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs concludes that drug testing high school students has not deterred their use of tobacco, marijuana or alcohol. In contrast, the study found that a positive school environment does help deter usage.

According to the study, although 20 percent of high schools nationwide test for drugs to deter use, such testing does not appear to decrease early use of marijuana or alcohol. Schools with positive environments, however, reported lower rates of students starting to smoke and drink. The study defines a positive school climate as a caring and respectful environment where students know that the school has clearly defined rules and they have a sense of connectedness with the faculty.

Specifically, the study found that students in schools with positive climates were 15 percent less likely to start smoking cigarettes and 20 percent less likely to start using marijuana. Despite the apparent effect of a positive school environment, the study concluded that neither drug testing nor a positive climate had any effect on the consumption of alcohol.

In its conclusion, the study notes that its conclusions reinforce previous studies that concluded that drug testing of students is a relatively ineffective drug-prevention policy. And while a positive school climate may have a beneficial influence on student drug use, the study reinforces the reality that impacting student behavior and substance abuse remains a difficult problem for school districts and educators.