The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 18, 2013

Drug testing

— In a Wednesday lunch meeting that brought several area political and business leaders together to discuss solutions to curtail drug abuse, the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce endorsed wholesale drug screenings in West Virginia’s school systems.

One of the main obstacles of such a measure is cost.

It was pointed out that a drug testing program in Putnam County geared towards students involved in extracurricular activities ran up a bill of about $50,000.

That sounds like a lot of money, and it is.

But compared to lives potentially saved, and the costs of rehabilitating drug abusers, it would be a good investment.

Giving perspective on costs involved in drug abuse cases, Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, an obstetrician, told of newborns hooked on drugs ingested by their mothers. He estimated costs of about $230,000 to detox each.

It is sad that we are facing issues like this.

But it is time to deal with drug abuse before it gets a tighter grip on our youngest generation.

The state legislature will likely see a proposed bill that would seek funding for testing in schools. Similar bills in the past have failed.

But Ellington plans to re-offer a bill that would require drug testing of teenagers when they apply for a driver’s license.

“They’re motivated to be drug-free,” he said Wednesday.

According to the Institute of Education Sciences, students involved in extracurricular activities and subject to in-school drug testing reported less substance use than comparable students in high schools without drug testing.

It works.

But students involved in extracurricular activities shouldn’t be the only ones tested.

Whether it’s all students or randomly selected students, a fear of testing positive would hopefully scare most kids straight, before they even take the first pill or consume any illegal drug.

And for those who test positive, help for the abuser can be quickly administered.

Drug abuse is crippling our region.

The damage is widespread — from economic ills associated with abuse, to crime, to countless overdose deaths of those who have spiraled off the deep end.

We must take additional action.

Testing would make a significant impact on our youth.

Of course, associated testing costs are to be discussed.

But at what cost are we willing to watch our children continue to slide down a path that is paved with the destruction of drug abuse?