By Clare Masters
August 10, 2007 12:00am
DRUG-TESTING could become mandatory in Australian high schools following an investigation by the Federal Government's drug watchdog into illicit substances.
Students may be subjected to saliva swabs, urine testing, pat downs or sniffer-dog searches under an Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) research project.
"This will provide information for people who are concerned about what is happening in schools and how we can better protect kids from drugs," ANCD chief executive Gino Vumbaca said.
The researchers will canvas parents, teachers, students and drug experts across the country and determine whether detection is needed in schools and what form it should take.
Mr Vumbaca said sniffer dogs or pat downs were some of the options that would be investigated, along with urine or saliva testing.
"We'll be looking at the technology for testing, given the drug driving (saliva testing) regime now," he said.
"We need to know if we should have a detection program; be it thorough testing or some other way - or should we do more in drug education?"
Using data from the recent Australian Secondary School Students' Use of Over-the-Counter and Illicit Substances report, which showed that, while drug use had declined, 15 per cent of 12-to-15 year olds and 33 per cent of 16 and 17 year-olds had tried at least one of cannabis, hallucinogens, amphetamines, ecstasy, opiates or cocaine.
The research, to be presented to all Australian governments, was conducted by Flinders University's National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction.
Anti-drug campaigner, South Australian Independent MP Anne Bressington, believes mouth swabs should be used: "I think if we did it it should be for all students from Year eight to Year 12 on a three to four year pilot.
"The No. 1 message would be that drug use is unacceptable."
However Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia's Paul Dillon warned drug detection sent the wrong message.
"Compulsory testing says to them that we believe there are so many of them using illicit drugs, that we have to run programs like this," he said.
"The reality is that those who are likely to be drug users will most probably be able to avoid drug testing."