Drug Testing In Schools

drug testing in schools

Drug and alcohol testing for schools a quick guide

Drugs in UK schools

Drug use is an increasing problem in the teenage population, and is affecting younger and younger children in the UK. Evidence from research suggests that the risk of pupils coming to school under the influence of drugs, or bringing drugs into school, has increased dramatically over the last 10 years. Drugs can not only affect the child that is taking them, but may have a knock-on effect on other pupils by disruptive behaviour related to drug use, affecting the learning and happiness of other students, and increasing peer pressure to take drugs. 

The rise of vaping and the use of illegal vapes containing THC is also a growing concern for schools both in the UK and abroad. Recent studies have shown that vaping nicotine is in fact a gateway drug for children and young adults, and is associated with an increased risk of drug use and binge drinking, and the use of vapes by pupils is now causing significant disruption in the education sector.

Drug use outside school

This can also impact on school behaviour and attainment for the pupils taking the drugs, and also those around them.

Cannabis & synthetic Cannabis (K2 ) in particular can have marked effects on personality and mental health, and drugs may also increase the risk of violent outbursts and aggression in pupils taking them.

Drug use in school

Headteachers have a duty to the pupils in their care, not only to ensure a safe school environment, and a good learning environment, but also to look out for the welfare of their pupils, and to spot issues like drug abuse.

Pupils dealing drugs, and selling them to other pupils either in school or on way to or from school, is also an increased risk for schools, and teachers need to be vigilant. 

Headteachers also need to be aware that members of the school staff may also be using drugs or alcohol, and that this may also need to be considered when drawing up a drug and alcohol testing policy.

Drug testing in schools pros and cons

Implementing drug testing in schools has its proponents and opponents. Supporters of drug testing in schools argue that it serves as a deterrent, identifies at-risk students early on, promotes a drug-free environment, and enhances parental awareness. Additionally, tying drug testing to participation in extracurricular activities is seen as a way to instill responsibility.

On the other hand, critics assert that mandatory drug testing in schools infringes on students' privacy, can result in false positives, may stigmatise students, and is costly to implement and maintain. There are concerns about the efficacy of such programs in reducing drug use, and some argue that they prioritise punishment over education and support for students facing substance abuse issues.

Balancing these considerations is crucial for schools contemplating the implementation of drug testing, ensuring a comprehensive and ethical approach that involves all stakeholders.

Consent is always required to perform a drug test on a pupil or member of staff in a school

If you wish to test pupils for drugs, you must first obtain their consent and also the consent of their parents. Either may refuse and this should be documented.

Download our editable consent and records document here

Do schools have to have a drugs policy

It is wise for all schools to make sure that they have a clear drug and alcohol testing policy for the school, that applies to the teachers and other members of staff, as well as the pupils.

As drug use in now so prevalent in the UK teenage population, it is advisable that all schools and in particular secondary schools have a drug and alcohol policy that makes it very clear that attending school while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or bringing drugs into school is not acceptable. In this policy, you can also layout your drug testing policy.

It is also important to remember that drug and alcohol use is also common in the adult population, and it may be worth adding a section that relates to the drug testing of teachers and ancillary staff into your drug and alcohol policy.

What drugs should we screen for in schools?

The obvious drugs to screen school pupils for are Cannabis & Synthetic Cannabis. These two are the drugs you are most likely to test positive for in this age group.

It is also worth testing for Ketamine, Opiates, Amphetamines, MDMA (Ecstasy), Methamphetamine (crystal meth) and Benzodiazepines but these will be detected less often than Cannabis. 
We have a 10-panel drug testing kit that is ideal for schools as it detects all these drugs.

Some schools also test for Cotinine (a metabolite of Nicotine) which means it is a smoking and vaping detection test.

Which drug testing kits should we use?

The choice is between urine drug testing kits (as shown in the photo) and saliva (oral mouth swab testing). Saliva drug testing will tell you whether a pupil is under the influence of drugs while they are at school as the detection period is quite short. Urine drug testing will tell you if they are using drugs outside of school hours and at weekends as the detection period for drugs is much longer. You will get more positive drug test results if you go for urine screening. 
Integrated cup urine drug testing kits

ALLTEST 10 panel (5+5) Schools Combination Urine Drug Test Kits

The combination of our standard UK combination 5 panel urine drug test kit, which tests for the 5 most common illegal drugs of abuse, with the NPS 5 panel urine drug test kit which screens for new psychoactive substances previously known as legal highs, offers a great value for money up to date drug screen for modern drugs of recreational and casual abuse for UK schools to use for their drug testing. 

Order ALLTEST 10 panel (5+5) Schools Combination Urine Drug Test Kits

drug testing kit for schools UK

ALLTEST 12 panel NPS drug test kit

We have also put together a 12-panel combination drug testing kit for schools that includes 5 new NPS ( New Psychoactive Substances previously known as legal highs)

Random drug testing is not common yet in UK schools

Random drug testing is where you randomly test your student population for drugs at random intervals. This is not common yet in the UK. Random drug testing or the threat of it is slowly being introduced in some schools.

Random drug tests are more common in boarding schools where the pupils spend all of their time, often for months at a time. Random drug testing may also be introduced for a period of time following an incident in the school, which has been confirmed as drug-related. 

Random drug screening is not yet popular in schools as it is more time consuming and more costly than post-incident testing, and most of your results would be negative unless there was a major drug problem in the school.

Post-incident drug testing is the most common form of drug testing in UK schools

The most frequent type of drug testing in schools is when an incident or accident has happened in a school, and the pupil or pupils involved are thought to be under the influence of drugs. The drug test is performed to confirm or refute the suspicion. 

Confirming positive drug test results on school pupils

Any drug screening results that are not negative (ie positive ) will need to be confirmed with a laboratory chain of custody urine drug test pack if you intend to take any disciplinary action.

Contact us if you require any help or advice with implementing drug screening for your school

Telephone 01263 731 168

Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm

Drug testing in UK schools page last updated 19/1/24 by Dr Kate Garside

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