Drug testing

Forcing people to undergo regular tests will be expensive and potentially intrusive

Editorial May 29, 2024


The Sindh government’s proposal to conduct random drug tests on students in educational institutions is a controversial response to the alarming use of synthetic drugs among youth. It is not the first time such a proposal has come up — the idea has been floated at federal and provincial levels across the country several times over the past couple of decades. Each time, the reality of implementing such a law has caused the plan to be scuttled. The major difference this time is that the drugs causing concern are synthetics such as methamphetamines, commonly called ice, which is relatively cheap and is significantly more addictive and destructive than most other commonly used illegal drugs.

Still,while imposing any testing regime on private institutions may well be challenged as an overreach. There is also the human rights aspect. Everyone has a right to education. Even convicted violent criminals have access to education. The Sindh government proposal seems to deny students access to all schools and universities, and even the right to sit exams, if they fail a drug test, which would amount to a violation of the Constitution of Pakistan and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so the plan still has massive holes.

One supporter of testing gave the example of how professional athletes are required to be tested for performance-enhancing drugs, but this comparison actually proves the counterargument — competing at the Olympics is not anybody’s birthright, but everyone has the right to go to school. Another comparison to Covid-19 testing also falls flat because drugs, while dangerous, are not highly contagious, and a person need not be under the influence of drugs to fail a test.

It would be better if the government kept the focus on drug awareness while increasing penalties on drug dealers, who currently work with impunity, thanks to their connections in the police and politicians.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2024.

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