Testing It Up » November 2012

Monthly Archives: November 2012

Drug Testing

Massachusetts Drug Testing Lab Scandal Leads to the Release of 195 Inmates

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Close to 200 inmates had been released from prison and their cases were put on hold after a chemist at a Boston-based drug testing lab was accused of faking drug test results.

During a public hearing on Wednesday, Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan told lawmakers that while investigators are looking at about 34,000 cases overall, 195 individuals have been released, 79 in Boston, the PoliceOne reports.

Heffernan did not disclose the kinds of crimes the inmates had been convicted of, but she said their release doesn’t mean they have been exonerated, instead, they could be under alternative forms of supervision as they await future court hearings to resolve their cases.

Heffernan also noted that the administration is “committed to ensuring that each individual’s case is reviewed completely to ensure that justice has been administered properly.”

On Tuesday, officials said Gov. Deval Patrick has ordered a “file-by-file review” of every case handled by chemist Annie Dookhan.

Dookhan was arrested by state police in September for mishandling drug test results, forging paperwork, and mixing samples. She worked for nine years at the lab and tested more than 60,000 samples involving 34,000 defendants.

The drug testing lab, which was overseen by the Department of Public Health, has since been shut down after state police found that Dookhan failed to follow drug testing protocols. The scandal resulted to the resignation of the lab’s three officials and has thrown thousands of criminal cases into doubt. It’s testing has turned over to the state police.

David Meier, a former state prosecutor appointed by Gov. Patrick to identify cases Dookhan worked on, said on Tuesday that his team has identified about 10,000 people whose drug cases were potentially affected by the alleged misconduct.

The accused chemist is free on a $10,000 bail.

Drug Testing

University of Texas Requires Drug Testing for Nursing Students

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The UT School of Nursing will be implementing a mandatory drug screening beginning next month for students who will be taking clinical programs, one of several types of classes required in the nursing curriculum.

According to Linda Carpenter, assistant dean of the School of Nursing, the primary reason for the new policy is to ensure the safety of patients treated by students and to standardize drug testing for all students in a way that meets industry guidelines.

“The bottom line is [that the new policy] is for patient safety,” Carpenter told The Daily Texan. “You can’t have people working in health care settings, being responsible for peoples’ lives, if they are under the influence of anything.”

Starting next semester, students who will be enrolling in clinical classes will need to complete their testing between Dec. 1 and Jan. 14. The tests will be administered by the University’s approved vendor.

Students who fail the drug test will not be allowed entry into the University’s clinical classes, but they can still continue enrolment in the nursing program. Depending on individual circumstances, students may be able to wait to take a second screening or may have to show proof of treatment for substance abuse before screening again.

The new policy complies with the Health Industry Steering Committee’s latest industry standards requiring standardized drug testing for students working in Central Texas hospitals.

Substance Abuse

New Jersey Permanently Outlaws Synthetic Marijuana!

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State Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced on Nov. 26 that New Jersey’s comprehensive ban on all variants of synthetic marijuana is now permanent. That means, “K2,” “K3,” “Spice,” and all other variants of synthetic drugs are now subject to the highest level of State control, along with cocaine and heroin.

“These synthetic poisons, once offered as a so-called ‘legal high’ by shady retailers, are now permanently off the market in New Jersey – and the numbers indicate our ongoing ban has led to a decline in their reported use,” Attorney General Chiesa said in a press release. “These drugs have grown in popularity nationwide, despite their alarming and catastrophic side effects. Today they are permanently on record as being just as illegal as cocaine or heroin.”

The formal adoption of the regulation makes New Jersey the fourth U.S. state to outlaw the manufacture, distribution, sale, and possession of synthetic drugs. Violators may be subject to a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for a three- to five-year term.

Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said: “New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies now have the tools they need to shut down the sellers of these toxic drugs, and keep them away from anyone misguided enough to use them.”

Early this year, New Jersey introduced a 270-day temporary ban on all variants of substances used to produce synthetic drugs. Over the past six months, the initiative has significantly helped reduce the number of reported cases related to synthetic marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana  are sold in convenience stores and gas stations. They have been found to cause muscle cell break down, kidney failure, seizures, tremors, anxiety, chest pain, convulsions, hallucinations, and heart palpitations.

“…the public is now fully aware that, despite colorful labels and catchy brand names, K2 and Spice are associated with dangerous side effects including seizures, hallucinations, panic attacks, and suicide,” Kanefsky added.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Independent Panel Drafts Guidelines Recommending Americans to Undergo HIV Test

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Mention HIV test and you’re sure to get an “it’s only for HIV-infected people” kind of response. At the very least, you can’t expect a perfectly healthy person to declare “I’ve had an HIV test,” because to these days, HIV remains a sensitive topic where a lot of people are still inadequately informed.

In an effort to remove the stigma associated with HIV test, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is proposing that people ages 15 to 64 should get HIV screening at least once.

The independent panel’s draft guidelines are the latest recommendations that aim to make HIV screening simply a routine part of a checkup, something a doctor can order with as little fuss as a cholesterol test or a mammogram, the Journal Sentinel reports.

Task Force member Douglas Owens of Stanford University and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System said the guidelines allow doctors to tell their patients “This is a recommended test that we believe everybody should have. We’re not singling you out in any way.”

According to a new national study, 6 out of 10 young people with HIV don’t even know they have the infection. That’s because many people don’t treat HIV test as important as any other commonly administered medical tests.

The Task Force’s proposal also recommends testing people older and younger than 15-64 if they are at increased risk of HIV infection; testing people at very high risk for HIV infection at least annually; and testing women during each pregnancy, something the task force has long recommended.

If finalized, the guidelines could extend the number of people eligible for an HIV screening without a co-pay in their doctor’s office, as part of free preventive care under the Obama administration’s health care law.

Drug Testing Substance Abuse Workplace Testing

Workplace Drug Testing vs. Marijuana Legalization in Washington State and Colorado

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It’s been weeks since recreational marijuana use has been legalized in Washington and Colorado, but until now, many are still asking how the new law will impact drug-free policies in schools and businesses. Although some universities and organizations have already issued statement that they are not going to change anything in their drug testing policy, others continue to consult with their lawyers and await for further announcement from the government.

Still, one important question remains: how do employers in these two states handle the tricky issues associated with the passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado and Initiative 502 in Washington which collide with the federal government’s drug laws?

As often stressed in various references and by the government, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 substance and the Justice Department earlier maintained their “enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.”

However, if one will review the provisions of Colorado and Washington State’s marijuana legalization measure, there was nothing that specifically address employers’ rights to drug test their employees. Colorado’s Amendment 64 states “Nothing in this section is intended to require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the workplace or to affect the ability of employers to have policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.” Similarly, driving under the influence of marijuana remains prohibited.

In Washington, Costco said “Drug testing is a requirement to be hired. Nothing will change. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.”

The Boeing Company also disclosed similar stand, saying “Use of marijuana by Boeing employees is prohibited regardless of state law.”

As employers need to decide how to approach Washington and Colorado’s new marijuana laws, a legal expert, Michael W. Groebe from Foley & Lardner LLP, with experience representing employers before state and federal courts and administrative agencies offered a sound advice.

“First, employers should continue to focus on the employee’s conduct while at work. If the employee is under the influence or using marijuana at work, the new laws are unlikely to protect them from discipline,” Groebe explained. “Second, employers should remember that marijuana remains prohibited under federal law. Even with Colorado’s “Lifestyle” law that prohibits employers from disciplining employees for engaging in lawful conduct while off-duty, federal law still makes the use of marijuana unlawful.”

Additionally, if an employer requires drug testing, including the policy in the employee handbook and informing job applicants and existing employees could prevent the organization from wasting money on pre-employment drug tests.

Substance Abuse

Kentucky Receives Federal Funds to Boost Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Efforts

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Governor Steve Beshear disclosed on Wednesday that three federal grants amounting to $6.25 million have been awarded to Kentucky to improve its substance abuse prevention and treatment efforts over the next three years.

Lex18 reports the first grant, $2.8 million, will be used for enhancing treatment for adolescents with mental health and substance use disorders who are at imminent risk or are already involved with the juvenile justice system. The second grant, $2.7 million, targets underage drinking among those aged 12-20 and prescription drug misuse and abuse among those 12-25 years of age. And the third grant, $750,000, is allotted for enriching and intensify treatment services for clients served in the Families Moving Beyond Abuse (FMBA) program in Bullitt County.

“This funding will bolster our efforts to reduce the devastating impact of substance abuse on so many of our Kentucky families,” said Gov. Beshear. “Helping those with substance abuse issues has been an ongoing goal of my administration, one that ultimately strengthens our communities and our Commonwealth.”

The funds were awarded to the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities (DBHDID) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). DBHDID is housed within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

How Washington’s New Pot Law Affects Workplace Drug Policy

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Drug testing has become common practice in the workplace for years. But with Washington’s new marijuana legalization law, are employers going to change their workplace drug policy anytime soon?

Several Washington businesses told News10 that the new pot law isn’t going to change the way they do business.

“Use of marijuana by Boeing employees is prohibited regardless of state law,” said Cathy Rudolph, from The Boeing Company.

Costco, one of the largest retailers in the US, said they will continue to drug test employees despite Washington voters’ approval of recreational marijuana use.

“Drug testing is a requirement to be hired,” said Costco Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Joel Benoliel. “Nothing will change. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.”

However, things may be a little different for the Seattle Police Department. They said they will review their hiring practices, policies, and procedures for existing employees in light of the new state law.

Substance Abuse

Kentucky Invests $7 Million to Treat Drug Addiction in Prisoners

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Kentucky has allotted $7 million this fiscal year to provide treatment to prisoners with substance abuse problems, the Courier Journal reports.

According to the Kentucky Department of Corrections, 30 percent of Kentucky inmates struggling with drug addiction return to jail. But a 2011 study from the University of Kentucky said this figure drops to 20 percent among inmates who receive treatment while behind bars.

“Investing in treatment programs is absolutely a prudent use of resources,” said Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown. “Substance abuse is the number one driver in our inmate population. It tears apart families, and communities in general. Anything we can do to break that cycle will improve the overall public safety of Kentucky.”

The University of Kentucky study also showed that participants in jail-based treatment programs are 60 percent less likely to use drugs following release, and those in prison-based treatment cut the risk by 54 percent.

As of the end of August, a total of 3,354 people in prisons, county jails, and community programs had completed substance abuse treatment through the Corrections Department this year. Last year, 3,505 inmates completed addiction treatment programs.

Most  of the treatment lasts six months, but three-month programs are also available for inmates assessed as low-level offenders.

Celebrity Substance Abuse Substance Abuse

Octomom Nadya Suleman Temporarily Checks-out of Rehab to Shoot Music Video

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Octomom Nadya Suleman temporarily left drug rehab and headed to Tennessee to film a parody music video that reportedly paid her $1,500.

The story featured on Examiner.com says Suleman has been in Tennessee since Nov. 5 where she’s filming a spoof music video with country musician Cledus T. Judd.

Suleman, who gained international attention after giving birth to octuplets in 2009, is enrolled in a 28-day drug rehab program which is expected to wind up on Nov. 20. She’s being treated for panic attacks, exhaustion, and Xanax dependency.

In 2011, the then 35-year-old mother appeared on Oprah Show and admitted feeling overwhelmed and sleep-deprived caring for her 14 children.

“I think I could have been self-medicating through children,” Suleman confessed. “I felt like a watering can with holes in it. In my delusional mind, the more I give to them, the more of me is leaking out. When it’s empty I go back, ‘Doctor, one more [baby].”

On top of being unemployed, Suleman had to battle eviction after failing to repay balloon payment on her house. Her lack of regular income has left her to fall into debt and struggle in providing for her children.