Testing It Up

Scientists Develop Fluorescent Date Rape Drug Sensor

A new study has taken another step towards preventing the potential of date rape drugs to victimize unsuspecting women.

Photo credit: National Univ. of Singapore

Photo credit: National Univ. of Singapore

Prof. Chang Young-Tae and his team of researchers from the National University of Singapore’s Department of Chemistry identified an orange fluorescent substance that can detect the presence of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), a well-known date rape drug. The compound, which the research team named as GHB Orange, was found to change its color as it reacts with GHB.

The study, published in the Royal Society of Chemistry online journal, involved an investigation of a number of known fluorescent dyes, which were mixed with varying concentrations of the date rape drug compound. GHB Orange was singled out because of its effectiveness and observable visual change in the presence of GHB, according to a news report.

What’s beneficial about this date rape drug sensor is its ease of use. Visual results can be observed within 30 seconds after mixing GHB Orange with a suspected spiked beverage.

GHB has become infamous for its effectiveness to render a person incapacitated, resulting in a higher risk of sexual crimes. The date rape drug is undetectable to the naked eye, and does not emit any identifying odor. The drug is very potent: ingesting just two grams of GHB may result in unconsciousness less than 30 minutes after ingesting the drug. The incapacitating effect can last up to six hours. It is not detectable in urine until up to six to 12 hours after it is ingested.

March 27, 2014 at 8:14 pm Comments (0)

Colorado Employers Allegedly Discriminating Against Marijuana Users

Although marijuana is now legal in Colorado for recreational use, many employers still consider it a controlled substance (as it is classified federally) and discriminate against its users. drug testing Texas politiciansUrine drug tests are often used to screen potential employees by having them pass a pre-employment drug check or by screening employees by random drug testing on the job.

Drug testing business MCC, located in Grand Junction, said they’ve seen hundreds of jobs impacted by failed drug tests, particularly for marijuana, which is the drug most likely to show up in a urinalysis test.

“I want to say about 80% of our positives are for marijuana,” said MCC drug test collector Kyle Raaflaub. “THC stores in the fat cells so some people that aren’t very active… can have THC in their system up to 45 days. Vicodin, oxycontin, stuff like that, ecstacy, cocaine… those will only have a time table of 24 to 36 hours.”

Testing positive for any amount of marijuana is legal grounds to prevent employment or immediate termination.

Staffing agency Labor etc. says it must turn away potential employment candidates on a weekly basis for failing a drug test due to having THC, marijuana’s psychoactive substance, in their system.

“We get a percentage of our potential employees that have come up positive for THC that argue the fact that it’s legal in Colorado,” said Labor etc. Sales Director Kris Cox. “That they should be able to smoke marijuana and still be accepted for a position, but it is the employer right to say no.”

Current Colorado Law favors business owners banning all personal employee marijuana use on the basis that this is an at-will state.

“Employers can generally terminate employees at their will for no reason, or for any reason as long as it’s a lawful reason,” said employment attorney Anna Itenberg.

The recently enacted Amendment 64 also has a clause reserving employers right’s to drug test. But this seems to contradict Colorado Division of Regulatory Agency’s off-duty statute, which was put in place to protect employees from termination based on what they do in their time outside of work such as cigarette smoking.

The statute reads, “It shall be a discriminatory… for an employer to terminate… any employee due to that employee’s engaging in any lawful activity off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours…”

The Colorado National Organization Reforming Marijuana Laws (CO NORML) said urinalysis testing should not be allowed because it gives positive results for marijuana activity that could’ve occurred weeks ago.

“The reason why we don’t think drug testing should be used is because drug testing for marijuana does not show any type of impairment,” said CO NORML executive director Rachel Gillette.

The state government says it’s okay to smoke marijuana medically and recreationally, but employers seem to disagree.

March 3, 2014 at 7:54 am Comments (0)

Sewage Tells the Tale of Drug Use in Communities

Chemistry professor Dan Burgard tested the sewage at the campus of at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, recently and found that “amphetamine levels go through the roof during finals.” drug testing

And Burgard isn’t the only scientist to test sewage to find out if a community has a drug problem. Sewage is a good indicator for drug use because when people take drugs, the substances are either unchanged or the body turns them into metabolites before they’re excreted.

“It amazes me it wasn’t really until 2005 that anyone had really done this or thought about doing this; now articles are constantly coming out about testing wastewater for drugs,” Burgard said. “With the technological advancements, this field is just going nuts.”

This kind of drug testing could be used to help with drug problems throughout the country, Caleb Banta-Green, an assistant professor of public health at the University of Washington, said.

“If you can look at drug trends through wastewater, you can have a conversation with your community and try to make changes. And then, testing the wastewater after such changes, you can see if you’re having an impact,” Banta-Green explained.

Sewage tests have already been going on across Europe and have given authorities there a portrait of what drugs are popular where:

• In London, cocaine and ecstasy spike on weekends while methadone is used more consistently.

• In Italy, cocaine use has declined while use of marijuana and amphetamines has increased.

• In Sweden and Finland, people use more amphetamines and methamphetamine and less cocaine than other European cities.

• In Finland, stimulants were more common in large cities.

• In Zagreb, Croatia, marijuana and heroin were the most commonly found illicit drugs, but cocaine and ecstasy showed up more frequently on weekends.

A few tests done in North America have also told some interesting stories:

• In Oregon, cocaine and ecstasy are more common in urban than in rural wastewater according to a 2009 study.

• During Superbowl weekend in Miami in 2010, drug levels in sewage did not differ much from a normal weekend.

• In three anonymous Canadian cities, cocaine was the most widely detected drug, while ecstasy levels were much lower than expected, according to a 2011 study.

While more than 20 studies on sewage have been conducted in Europe over the past decade, only a few have been conducted in North America.

Banta-Green said Europe got started with this research earlier but it’s starting to gain traction States side.

Studying wastewater has its disadvantages, like not telling you who’s using, how they’re using, or why they’re using. It also can’t tell you if a community has 100 heavy users or 1,000 light users of a drug.

But it also has some advantages over quantifying drug use with surveys, which can be suspect due to the illegality and stigma of drug use prompting people taking the surveys to not always be honest about their drug use.

Another advantage to testing sewage is that it also covers entire populations across racial, age, gender, and economic statuses.

And wastewater can also tell you about the ingredients in drugs.

“Increasingly, people have no idea what they’re even taking,” Banta-Green said. “I was looking at police evidence for the drugs in the Seattle area that were supposed to be ecstasy. The main ecstasy ingredient was only present in 26 of the 81 drugs. Sewage can tell us something about these ingredients.”

And although this type of drug testing is picking up steam, it also raises privacy and ethical concerns.

January 28, 2014 at 7:29 am Comments (0)

Unofficial poll shows most Americans would be in favor of drug testing members of congress

An internet survey has found that the majority of respondents are in favor of mandatory random drug testing for US members of congress.drug-testing-at-work

The Huffington Post ran the survey, which interviewed 1,000 US adults, Nov. 25 – 27.

The findings:

  • 64% of Americans favor requiring welfare recipients to submit to random drug testing, while 18% oppose it.
  •  78% of Americans favor random drug testing for members of Congress, while 7% oppose it.
  • 62% said they “strongly” favor drug testing for congressional lawmakers, compared to only 51% who said the same of welfare recipients.
  • 86% of Republicans, 77% of Democrats and 75% of independents said they want drug testing for members of Congress.
  • 66% said that a member of Congress convicted of possessing a small amount of cocaine should be forced to resign, while only 14% favored allowing the convicted member to serve out the remainder of his or her term.
  • 72% said they support random drug testing for members of the military, and 87% supported it for airline pilots and 71% said they support random drug testing for professional athletes.
December 4, 2013 at 8:34 am Comments (0)

Schools continue to debate mandatory drug testing in wake of federal ruling

Schools across the country continue to debate the usefulness of mandatory drug testing policies, according to a recent USA Today article. random drug testing

Just last month, a federal judge changed the legal landscape when it comes to mandatory drug testing in schools when he ruled that Linn State Technical College’s mandatory drug testing policy, when applied to most students, is unconstitutional.

Officials at the Missouri college said that the school put the mandatory drug testing program in place at the behest of community businesses that were likely to hire the school’s students. The school’s drug policy stated that if a student’s drug test came back positive, that student would meet with a counselor and could participate in an online substance abuse program. The student would then be required to take a second scheduled test and a third random test. If both subsequent tests were negative, the student could continue to be enrolled at the school and all test results would be destroyed at the end of the semester.

The lawsuit opposing the mandatory drug testing was brought forward by the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.

“Linn State required every incoming student to be tested for drugs, even though many of them would not be engaged in dangerous activities and the college had no reason to believe any particular student was using drugs,” said Jason Williamson, staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project at the time the judge had ruled the policy to be unconstitutional. He was also co-counsel on the case.

Addiction experts applauded the ruling, as it helps switch the focus from disciplining students, to actually helping them with the problem of potential addiction.

“Many schools continue to frame substance use by college students as an enforcement problem and therefore turn to policies such as drug testing as the solution,” said Susan Foster, Vice President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. “The problem with this approach is that substance use and addiction are public health and medical issues. Enforcement strategies alone are unlikely to solve health problems.”


Colleges across the country are concerned about the increasing popularity of the drug Molly, the USA Today article notes. “There has always been fashion to drugs of the day … Chasing the problem one drug at a time is a costly game of whack-a-mole where use of one drug is addressed only to see the problem pop up in a different form,” Foster noted.

Molly is another name for MDMA, which is the powder that ecstasy pills are created from. It has recently been featured in pop songs that glorify its use.

A recent national survey of high school students found random drug testing in schools does not reduce students’ substance use. The study found students who attend schools where they feel treated with respect are less likely to start smoking cigarettes or marijuana.

October 15, 2013 at 5:51 am Comments (0)

Depressants Most Common Drug Associated with Fatal Vehicle Accidents

Drivers who test positive for drugs are threes times more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident than those who test negative, a new study has found.

Photo courtesy of Mike Kline on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Mike Kline on Flickr

And people who combine drugs and alcohol are 23 times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash, researchers at Columbia University revealed.

The study analyzed the results of roadside surveys completed by drivers about their drug and alcohol use and found that almost 32% of drivers involved in fatal crashes and around 14% of drivers not involved in accidents tested positive for at least one drug. Depressants were the most common drug associated with fatal accidents, followed by stimulants, narcotics and marijuana.

About 9% of drivers overall, and 57% of drivers involved in deadly accidents, had elevated blood alcohol levels. Twenty percent of drivers involved in crashes that involved a fatality tested positive for alcohol and one or more drugs, compared with just 2% of drivers overall.

The findings are published in Accident Analysis and Prevention.

“While alcohol-impaired driving remains the greatest threat to traffic safety, these findings about drugged driving are particularly salient in light of the increases in the availability of prescription stimulants and opioids over the past decade,” lead researcher Dr. Guohua Li said in a news release.

October 8, 2013 at 5:59 am Comments (0)

DoT Drug Testing put on Hold During Government Shutdown

drug testWhile the government takes an unscheduled break from running the country, several non-important services and regular government tasks have been put on hold. But one extremely important task that has also been put on hold is drug testing for Department of Transportation (DoT) employees, including air traffic controllers.

According to the DoT’s Operations During a Lapse in Annual Appropriations, none of its employees will be subjected to drug testing during the government shutdown.

Almost 18,500 DoT employees have been furloughed during the shutdown, but that still leaves about 37,000 employees doing highly safety-oriented work like the aforementioned air traffic controllers and safety inspectors.

In addition to stopping drug testing, the shutdown will also affect the DoT in the following ways:

  • training for new employees will be suspended;
  • facilities won’t undergo security inspections;
  • there won’t be any new rules regarding aviation; and,
  • personnel won’t undergo routine background investigations.

How the shutdown will affect drug testing at other government agencies remains unclear. The Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, Health and Human Services, the Interior, and Justice don’t mention drug testing in their official shutdown documents.

October 4, 2013 at 5:28 am Comment (1)

Study Finds Drug and Alcohol Violations at Nuclear Power Plants have Increased Dramatically

Drug Free Workplace SignThe people working at real life nuclear power stations might just be a little more like Homer Simpson than you’re comfortable with.

That’s because a new study has found that incidences of drug and alcohol violations have continually risen over the past five years from about one per month to averaging about one per week now.

The findings come from the non-profit group Fairewinds Energy Education, who found the majority of drug and alcohol violations occurred in the southeastern states. Those violations included drinking alcohol in a protected area, and positive tests for marijuana and cocaine.

The report looked at violations of the Fitness For Duty program, which nuclear reactor owners are required to implement to ensure that all personnel who have access to the power plants are drug and alcohol free and have no psychological impairment that might comprise the safe operation of the plant. The report found during the past five years, Fitness For Duty violations in the United States have more than doubled. Those are led by alcohol related events, which have nearly quadrupled during the same time period.

“The data unequivocally demonstrates that workforce personnel and licensed reactor operators are under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs while on-duty, despite the knowledge that such actions when caught can end careers, and that programs are in place that have been designed to identify those who are under the influence, indicating serious addictive issues not occasional social consumption of alcohol and drugs,” the report states. “Not only are workers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs while on the job, they are also bringing that same contraband into work with them, in some cases with documented evidence to determine there was intent to distribute.”


September 25, 2013 at 11:58 am Comments (0)

Brazil Seeks Help for Drug Testing for World Cup in 2014

With the World Cup less than a year away in Brazil, the country has been left scrambling to find overseas help for drug testing for the event. drug testing

A new lab being built in Rio de Janeiro should be up and running prior to the 2016 Olympics — also to be held in Brazil — but will not be ready in time for the World Cup in  June and July of 2014.

Another lab that was to handle drug testing for the international soccer tournament had its accreditation stripped by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) last month due to “repeated failures” by the facility.

Head of Brazil’s anti-doping authority Marco Aurelio Klein called the lab’s loss of accreditation a “disaster,” but added; ”actually, it’s a problem of the new building. The new building will be completed, will be ready, at the end of April, beginning of May of 2014. Of course, it’s no time for the World Cup because you need to move the equipment, the people,” he said. “But we have no problem for the Olympic Games.”

Klein said Brazil was proposing that accredited labs elsewhere set up branches in the country to oversee the testing of World Cup blood and urine samples. Under the proposal, the testing would still be done using Brazilian equipment and facilities but would be overseen by WADA-accredited labs overseas.

He suggested the WADA lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, could oversee the testing of blood samples. Brazil could turn to labs from Europe or the United States for help with the urine sampling, he added.

September 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm Comments (0)

Court Strikes Down Mandatory Drug Testing for Students at ACLU

In a decision to a class-action lawsuit earlier this week, a federal district court told Linn State Technical College to end its unconstitutional program of requiring all of its students to submit to drug-testing.

drug testingThe suit was brought forward by the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.

“Linn State required every incoming student to be tested for drugs, even though many of them would not be engaged in dangerous activities,” said Jason Williamson, staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, and co-counsel on the case, ”and the college had no reason to believe any particular student was using drugs. Any student who refused to submit to the drug test—which is considered a search under the Fourth Amendment—would be denied the opportunity to pursue their education at Linn State.

“Students should not be required to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to further their education, and we’re thrilled that the court has struck down the policy. Our victory should serve as a warning to colleges and universities across the country: mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of the entire student body has no place in education.”

September 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm Comments (0)

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