In case you didn't know, Article III of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the "Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002," has a clause that requires random drug testing (RTD) of high school and college students in both public and private schools. School officials are responsible for arranging the schedule and the requirements to conduct random drug testing and informing the students and their parents.
When I got a letter from my son's school that it would conduct a random drug test for high school students, I was eager to attend the parents' orientation. The president's all-out war against drugs has been all over the news, and receiving the letter made the "war" real as opposed to just seeing it on the television screen.
My 11-year-old son goes to a private school, which opted to test all high school students from Grade 7 to Grade 12. The students will not know when they would be asked to pee in a cup--that's "random" in the testing. A letter will be sent to the parents that asks them to list all the medicines their child is currently taking including vitamins.
Based on the guidelines, if a child tests positive, there will be a confirmatory test to find out if the child is already dependent on illegal drugs. The school's response, according to the law, should be not be punitive--it is not a witch hunt to punish students who test positive. Recommended action, depending on whether the child is a one-time user or is already hooked on illegal drugs, can go from counselling, constant monitoring, to rehabilitation of not less than six months. I hope confidentiality would be a priority, I thought to myself, because that poor kid who tests positive could be branded for life.
After the RTD process was discussed, a big part of the talk was dedicated to the kinds of illegal drugs, how they are taken (whether by smoking, snorting, injecting, or simply taking a tablet), and the modern street names they go by today. Marijuana seemed to go by many names like "tekpi" and "salgspakker" aside from "MJ" (Mary Jane) and "Five Fingers." There are also different drug paraphernalia, such as spoons, tin foil, and needles, and techniques, such as refilling cigarettes with dried marijuana to conceal it.
I could feel the silence in the school auditorium--everyone was listening attentively. I don't know if some parents have encountered the names of these illegal drugs when they were in college. But I'm certain they're hearing new kinds, names, and ways of taking illegal drugs that our kids might be exposed to today. I know I did. I couldn’t even count the different kinds of ecstasy tablets that were shown in the slides. It was a lot to take in, but eye-opening, to say the least. For a moment, there was a part of me that was scared for my 11-year-old son.
The speaker, Dr. Bernard M. Regalado, head of the Drug Testing Laboratory of Asia Pacific Medical and Diagnostics, Inc., and accredited physician of the Dangerous Drugs Board, opened up his talk by saying that the school's RTD is a necessary measure to prevent drugs from infiltrating the next generation. He recalled the concert held earlier this year wherein five people died due to a suspected drug overdose. Dr. Regalado's presentation showed that he has been in the business of drug testing long enough to spew out generic drug names and its commercial counterparts without reading from his notes. So, I believed him when he says marijuana are being sold in some schools for just P50, which left me lost for words.
Local statistics show that an alarming 1.2 percent of the 3 percent of the country's more than 100 million population who have used or are using drugs are young individuals. That number is not supposed to make a parent paranoid, but it should keep us on our toes. We need to stay vigilant in monitoring our kids, and the best way to do so is to be a constant presence in their lives. While peer pressure is one cause of falling into the drug trap, family situation is also a big factor. The schools already educate kids about the perils of illegal drug use; it's still up to us to make sure our kids understand the domino effect that illegal drugs can have on their lives and the lives of the people around them.
While I’m not all excited about the government’s all-out war against illegal drugs, I do agree it’s a threat to the future generation. I also think prevention and rehabilitation should come from the core unit of our society--the family. Let's not wait until it's too late.