To determine if random drug and alcohol testing (DAT) reduces use of these substances in high school athletes, researchers from the University of Oregon and Arizona State University conducted a randomized trial of Oregon high school students.
Initially, 18 high schools from the greater Portland area, with no prior student athlete drug testing programs, were enrolled in the study. After matching by size and athletic division, the schools were randomized to immediate or delayed implementation of a DAT program. Each developed a DAT policy modeled after an Oregon state sample policy, which followed guidelines from a 1995 US Supreme Court decision affirming the legality of randomized drug testing of student athletes by schools. Seven schools were eliminated due to deviations from protocol. Of the remaining schools, five were randomized to implement their policy (DAT schools) and six to delay until the end of the study period (control schools).
Students who signed up for sports at the start of the 2000–2001 school year signed a consent to be surveyed at the start and completion of the next three school years; in the DAT schools they also signed a consent for randomized drug and alcohol testing.
Testing was done on half of all eligible athletes, randomly selected 15 times during each academic year. Urine samples were assayed for several illicit drugs; half of the samples were tested for anabolic-androgenic steroids. Students also had a breath test for alcohol at the time of urine collection.
Positive results were reported to the school administrators, parents or guardians, and the students with mandatory counseling. At baseline and at four time points during the two-year study period, participating students completed a survey on their use of illicit drugs and alcohol and indicated their attitudes about drug use and DAT. The main study outcomes were a drug use index and drug and alcohol use index, calculated as the total number of times students reported using several different drugs and/or alcohol in the past month and the past year. Responses were combined into five categories ranging from nonuse to heavy use.
A total of 653 student athletes in the DAT schools and 743 in the control schools consented to the study; most were in grades 9 and 10. The majority were male and 90% were white. At baseline, reported use of all drugs was similar between students in the two groups except for a significantly higher reported use of anabolic steroids in the DAT schools.
At none of the four follow-up periods was there a significant difference in reported past-month use of drugs or alcohol. At the follow-up survey at the end of the first and second year, athletes from DAT schools reported significantly lower past-year use of drugs and alcohol than those in the control schools. At the follow-up survey...