Testing It Up

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)

Preventive Drug Testing On Pregnant Women Implemented In Greater Cincinnati

The Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky metropolitan area aims to get serious in preventing drug-related complications for newborn children, as it starts to subject expectant moms to drug testing.

pregnancy drug abuseAs bizarre as it may sound, Greater Cincinnati has already begun the controversial practice of checking pregnant women for drug use. This stemmed from earlier studies that a woman who immerses herself in drugs might affect the growth of the child while inside her womb.

Greater Cincinnati Health Council spokesperson Brenda Yablonsky shared in a news report that health experts are concerned about the increase in occurrence of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in babies, primarily caused by the dependence of the mothers on drugs. In their locality, Yablonsky said NAS cases shot up in three years. In 2009, NAS incidents were 11 in every 1,000 births. However, the number alarmingly increased to 36 per thousand.

Critics and human rights activists need not panic, though, as the drug testing is not mandatory. All expectant mothers will be given the information prior to testing, and they can say “no” to the procedure.

The council, however, recommends the drug testing to all moms not to screen them, but rather to proceed with steps necessary to prevent the child from developing NAS. The symptoms of this condition can manifest as early as the first week of birth, and early diagnosis can help a lot in the child’s future life.

September 8, 2013 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Three of World’s Best Sprinters Fail Drug Tests

The sport of track and field has been unwavering in its battle against use of performance-enhancing drugs. Sunday’s news, however, struck a different tone, as three of the world’s best runners were found positive for drugs in their respective tests.

Photo credits from Flickr (L-R): Tab59, Jonas Witt, André Zehetbauer

Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell, and Sherone Simpson
Photo credits from Flickr (L-R): Tab59, Jonas Witt, André Zehetbauer

US sprinter Tyson Gay, who currently holds the American record for 100-meter dash, failed an out-of-competition drug testing conducted last May. In a news release, Gay claims to have “put my trust in someone and I was let down,” implying that he had no knowledge that a banned substance was introduced into his system.

The identity of the illegal substance has not yet been made known to the public by Gay or US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief Travis Tygart.

This seems like a big hurdle for Gay, who has been a transparent advocate against drug use in the sport. He has been active in USADA’s testing program “My Victory” to exemplify his clean living as an athlete, and so far he has not failed the tests — not until the most recent one. Because of his failure in the drug test, Gay has voluntarily withdrawn from the world championships.

Another 100-meter sprinter and former record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica was found with oxilofrine in his system when he underwent a test for the national championships in Jamaica last June. Powell took to Twitter to defend himself: “I am not now – nor have I ever been – a cheat.” Fellow Jamaican runner Sherone Simpson tested positive for the same substance, and released a similar message saying that she “would not intentionally take an illegal substance of any form” into her own body.

Despite the grim situation, Powell sees the silver lining, saying that he “will come out stronger and wiser and better prepared to deal with the many twists and turns of being a professional athlete.”

July 15, 2013 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

UK Set to Crack Down on Drugged Driving Starting Next Year

Starting next year, people in the United Kingdom busted behind the wheel under the influence of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy or prescription drugs being used in a non-medical way, could face fines and possible jail time.

To help catch drugged drivers, British police will start using new “drugalyzer” devices, which are similar to breathalyzers but which test for small traces of drugs in an individual’s system. People who are busted for driving while under the influence of illicit drugs or prescription drugs that are being misused will face a 12-month driving ban, six months in jail and a fine of up to £5,000 (roughly $7,400).He has a steering wheel, so he is technically driving, too.

Anyone driving under the influence of legally prescribed medication will not be penalized unless they have taken more than the recommended dose or have ignored a doctor’s warning not to drive while on the drug.

“Drug-driving is a menace which devastates families and ruins lives. That is why we are proposing to take a zero-tolerance approach with those who drive under the influence,” Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond said. “We know that the vast majority of people who use prescription drugs are doing so responsibly. That is why our approach does not unduly penalize drivers who have taken properly prescribed medicines.”

Experts predict that cracking down on drugged drivers will save at least 200 lives a year.

July 10, 2013 at 7:01 am Comments (0)

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