Parent Perceptions regarding High School Drug Testing

Subst Use Misuse. 2020;55(14):2357-2363. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2020.1817081. Epub 2020 Sep 10.


Adolescent drug use remains a critical public health issue. Almost 38 percent of school districts currently implement student drug testing, and more schools may be considering implementation due to emerging recreational drug use laws. Parents are an essential key stakeholder and decision-maker in school policies. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine Colorado parents' perceptions regarding high school drug testing. Methods: A cross-sectional research design was used to assess parental support for implementing drug testing in public high schools. A total of 205 participants completed a survey evaluating support, attitude, and beliefs regarding this policy. Descriptive statistics, chi-square, and logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the data. Results: The majority of parents perceived that alcohol (68.3%), cannabis (77.6%), and illicit drugs (51.2%) were a problem amongst students at their child's high school. Parents overall were supportive of drug testing students (61.9%), except for parents who were current cannabis users (p = .002). The majority of parents are supportive of drug testing because they believe it could help students resist peer pressure (65.9%), facilitate early intervention (e.g. counseling; 71.2%), while not violating student privacy rights (57.6%) or creating a negative school climate (50.7%). Conclusions/Importance: Parents recognize there may be an adolescent drug use problem. Parental support of drug testing is an important consideration for superintendents/school districts who are contemplating implementation of a drug testing policy for high schools.

Keywords: Adolescent health; drug testing; drug use; parents; school policy; school-based services; secondary schools.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Colorado
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Parents
  • Perception
  • School Health Services
  • Schools*


  • Illicit Drugs