Drug testing is being introduced in some US middle schools to try and protect children as young as 12 from illegal substances.

Middle schools in a district in New Jersey are introducing random drug testing on its seventh and eighth grade pupils, who are aged between 12 and 14. The tests will be voluntary for students who want to take part in extracurricular activities or compete for school sports teams.

However, once a parent has signed their child up for the programme, they will face being banned from participating in extracurricular activities or interscholastic sports if they fail a test or refuse to take it. Students who test positive for drugs more than once will also have to complete a series of counselling sessions.

The policy was approved by the Lacey Township Board of Education who hope the scheme will encourage young teenagers to stay away from drugs.

Superintendent of Schools Craig Wigley told NJ Advance Media: “I’m a supporter for any intervention to give another reason for kids to say ‘no’ and that can start at any age, especially with our young teens.”

Testing can act as a deterrent

The drug testing programme will test up to 40 pupils at random each month during the school year. Samples will be tested for a number of substances including alcohol, cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs.

Drug testing is already common in American high schools, although it is less widely used in the UK. However, more and more businesses are turning to drug testing to reduce absenteeism, maintain productivity and protect health and safety in the workplace.

Many employers who have chosen to implement a drug testing programme are in industries where safety is critical. For example, testing is regularly carried out in the military and on oil rigs.

As well as random drug tests, samples can be taken and analysed for the presence of illegal substances as part of an investigation into an incident. This type of post-incident testing will reveal whether or not drugs played a part in a workplace accident, misdemeanour or other type of incident.

Some organisations also use drug testing as part of the recruitment process to screen potential employees and ensure they don’t have a problem with substance misuse. And testing can be used to monitor the progress of an employee who has struggled with an addiction in the past and has now returned to the workplace.