Do School Drug Use Suspension Policies Really Work?

Do School Drug Use Suspension Policies Really Work?

Do school-based drug use suspension policies really work?  

Not according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (2020) which examined the longitudinal effect of schools’ drug policies on student marijuana use. 

Data for the study were from the International Youth Development Study, which surveyed state-representative samples of students from Victoria, Australia, and Washington State. 

Results showed that the likelihood of student marijuana use was higher in schools in which administrators reported using out-of-school suspension and students reported low policy enforcement. 

Specifically, students who attended schools that reported always or almost always using out-of-school suspensions for illicit drug policy violations were 1.6 times as likely to be marijuana users 1 year later.  

Student marijuana use was less likely where students reported receiving abstinence messages at school and students violating school policy were counseled about the dangers of marijuana use. 

The authors concluded that schools may reduce student marijuana use by delivering abstinence messages, enforcing nonuse policies, and adopting a remedial approach to policy violations rather than use of suspensions. 

Nonuse policy enforcement could include communicating to students the policies regarding use and violations, and monitoring substance use risk factors and behaviors. 

Evidence-based Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW) programs offer a practical one-lesson classroom solution to providing abstinence messages for all students (universal prevention) as well as a positive individually tailored remedial strategy addressing healthy lifestyle habits for youth violating drug use policies (selected prevention). 

PPW programs also include online and paper pretest and posttest surveys allowing schools, counselors and teachers to track student substance use risk and protective factors and behaviors. 

Learn more about PPW programs today: 

Read the entire study text:,marijuana%20users%201%20year%20later

Sample School Substance Use Policy Development Guide: 

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