International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy

1.1 Prevention

Children have the right to receive accurate and objective information about drugs and drug-related harm, the right to protection from harmful misinformation, and the right to privacy.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Undertake evidence-based and human rights-compliant prevention measures, including in schools.

ii. Avoid excluding children from school due to risk-taking behaviours and take measures to ensure their access to education.

iii. Avoid random drug testing, sniffer dogs, and strip searches in schools.


The Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly called on States to put in place effective drug prevention measures pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including in schools.627 Scare tactics and misinformation are counterproductive and should not be employed,628 which is why the Committee consistently calls for ‘accurate and objective’ information.629 The UN General Assembly Special Session 2016 Outcome Document also requests that States take practical prevention measures for children and youth by providing ‘accurate information’.630 The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has developed international prevention standards that incorporate key ethical considerations and a review of the evidence.631 These have been endorsed by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.632

Random school drug testing is ineffective and is therefore an unwarranted infringement of children’s right to privacy under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.633 The UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s prevention standards recommend avoiding such testing.634 Given the absence of evidence of effectiveness of the use of sniffer dogs, this too should be avoided on the same rights-based grounds. Strip searches, meanwhile, have been found to be an unconstitutional violation of the right to privacy in some jurisdictions.635

Children have the right to education under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.636 Retention in school is an important form of protection from a range of health harms, while exclusion from school has been identified as a risk factor for the initiation or escalation of drug use.