Assembly bill would require drug screening for children at physicals

Parents wondering exactly what is wrong with their teenage children may be able to rule out drug use someday in the near future.

Legislation has been introduced in the state Assembly by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbera, D-Rotterdam, adding a new section to the state Public Health Law requiring illegal drug screening for children between the ages of 12 and 18 as part of an annual physical provided by a health care professional.

A.8655 would mandate health insurance coverage of pediatric drug screenings as part of health plans and policies offered in New York state with no deductible, co-insurance or co-payments. Positive tests do not meet the criteria of a reportable incident in the state’s Social Services Law, and the law would also require the results of the drug testing be destroyed once a child turns 19.

“This legislation will help ensure that a qualified health care provider screens children, as part of their annual health care routine, for illegal drug abuse, and if needed, offer treatment options,” Santabarbera wrote in his legislative justification.

“Research shows that teens addicted to drugs who receive treatment are far more likely to beat their addiction than those who do not.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, alcohol, marijuana and tobacco are substances most commonly used by adolescents. By 12th grade, about two-thirds of students have tried alcohol while about half of ninth through 12th grade students reported ever having used marijuana.. Among 12th graders, close to two in 10 reported using prescription medicine without a prescription.

Drug abuse among teens can affect the growth and development of teens, especially brain development, while contributing to the development of adult health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and sleep disorders.

Finally, the earlier teens start using substances, the greater their chances of continuing to use substances and developing substance use problems later in life. When teens begin drinking at an early age, they increase the chance of becoming addicted to or continuing to abuse substances later in life.

“Using drugs in high school can cause severe long-term effects and increase the risk of developing an addiction or drug dependence,” Santabarbera wrote in his legislative justification. “Drug abuse can also deplete the brain of certain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, sending high schoolers into a prolonged depression and leaving them susceptible to more destructive behaviors. Furthermore, teen substance abuse of any kind can have a major negative impact on their academic performance.”


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