Obama’s New Drug Control Report Calls for More Workplace Drug Testing, Nationwide Zero Tolerance Laws, Prescription-Only Ephedrine Products, and the Return of the “Above the Influence” Campaign
The first thing you should know about President Barack Obama’s 2012 Drug Control Strategy report is that it begins and ends with the declaration that the war on drugs is working and will continue apace.
Obama administration policies have “yielded significant results,” according to the President’s introductory letter, which concludes by saying, “While difficult budget decisions must be made at all levels of government, we must ensure continued support for policies and programs that reduce drug use and its enormous costs to American society.”
The report ends with a familiar refrain: “Legalization of drugs will not be considered in this approach. Making drugs more available and more accessible will not reduce drug use and its adverse consequences for public health and safety. We will continue to educate young
people and all Americans about the science on the harmful health effects of marijuana use.”
The pages in between those two statements contain a broad outline for increased drug enforcement, mandatory rehabilitation programs for people who don’t need or want them, and the return of melodramatic Reefer Madness-style agitprop aimed at teenagers.
The report encourages carte blanche workplace drug testing, on the grounds that it will curtail productivity losses associated with drug use and improve users’ lives. It also describes the Obama administration’s attempt to develop on oral test for workplace drug testing.
The report contains a request to Congress for $20 million to Revamp and Reenergize the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, which was defunded by Congress last year because it doesn’t work.
The report also calls for a nationwide zero tolerance policy for “drugged driving,” which would mean all drivers would be subjected to laws that currently affect only commercial drivers.
The report also says that “Several options are being considered to further reduce methamphetamine production including prescription-only status for pseudoephedrine/ephedrine products.”
Personally I’m much more concerned about my president being under the influence of drugs than I am about anyone else. The same goes for cabinet-members, senators, congressmen and other people at the upper levels of government.
A drug test is a technical analysis of a biological specimen – for example urine, hair, blood, sweat, or oral fluid / saliva – to determine the presence or absence of specified parent drugs or their metabolites. Major uses of drug testing are to detect the presence of performance enhancing steroids in sport or for drugs prohibited by laws, such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin.
A “10-panel urine screen” consists of the following: 1. Amphetamines (including Methamphetamine) 2. Barbiturates 3. Benzodiazepines 4. Cannabinoids (THC) 5. Cocaine 6. Methadone 7. Methaqualone 8. Opiates (Codeine,Morphine, Heroin, Oxycodone, Vicodin, etc.) 9. Phencyclidine (PCP) 10. Propoxyphene
The detection windows depend upon multiple factors—drug class, amount and frequency of use, metabolic rate, body mass, age, overall health, and urine pH. For ease of use, the detection times of metabolites have been incorporated into each parent drug. For example, heroin and cocaine can only be detected for a few hours after use, but their metabolites can be detected for several days in urine. In this type of situation, we will report the (longer) detection times of the metabolites.
Oral fluid or saliva testing results for the most part mimic that of blood. The only exceptions are THC (tetrahyrocannabinol) and benzodiazepines. Oral fluid will likely detect THC from ingestion up to a maximum period of 6–12 hours. This continues to cause difficulty in oral fluid detection of THC and benzodiazepines.
Rapid oral fluid products are not approved for use in workplace drug testing programs and are not FDA cleared. Using rapid oral fluid drug tests in the workplace is a violation of many state and federal laws.
|Substance||Urine||Hair||Blood / Oral Fluid|
|Alcohol||6–24 hours Note: Alcohol tests may measure EtG which can stay in urine for up to 80 hours||up to 2 days||12–24 hours|
|Amphetamines (except methamphetamine)||1 to 4 days||up to 90 days||12 hours|
|Methamphetamine||3 to 5 days||up to 90 days||1–3 days|
|MDMA (Ecstasy)||72 – 96 hours||up to 90 days||72 – 96 hours|
|Barbiturates (except phenobarbital)||1 day||up to 90 days||1 to 2 days|
|Phenobarbital||2 to 3 weeks||up to 90 days||4 to 7 days|
|Benzodiazepines||Therapeutic use: up to 7 days. Chronic use (over one year): 4 to 6 weeks||up to 90 days||6 to 48 hours|
|Cannabis||Infrequent users: 3-4 Days; Heavy users: 10 days; Chronic users and/or users with high body fat: 30 days or more.||up to 90 days||2–3 days in blood, up to 2 weeks in blood of heavy users However, it depends on whether actual THC or THC metabolites are being tested for, the latter having a much longer detection time than the former. THC (found in marijuana) may only be detectable in saliva/oral fluid for 2–24 hours in most cases.|
|Cocaine||2 to 5 days with exceptions for certain kidney disorders||up to 90 days||2 to 5 days|
|Codeine||2 to 3 days|
|Cotinine (a break-down product of nicotine)||2 to 4 days||up to 90 days||2 to 4 days|
|Morphine||2 to 4 days||up to 90 days||1 – 3 days|
|Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA’s)||7 to 10 days||Undetectable ||Detectable but dose relationship not established |
|LSD||12 to 24 hours||Undetectable  }||2 to 4 days|
|Methadone||7 to 30 days||up to 90 days||24 hours|
|Steroids||3 to 30 days|
|PCP||3 to 7 days for single use; up to 30 days in chronic users||up to 90 days||1 to 3 days|
Saliva drug screen / Oral fluid-based drug screen
Saliva / oral fluid-based drug tests can generally detect use during the previous few hours to 1–2 days. THC may only be detectable for less than 12.0 hours in most cases. On site drug tests are allowed per the Department of Labor.
Detection in saliva tests begins almost immediately upon use of the following substances, and lasts for approximately the following times:
- Alcohol: 6–24 h
Sweat drug screen
Sweat patches are attached to the skin to collect sweat over a long period of time (up to 14 days). These are used by child protective services, parole departments, and other government institutions concerned with drug use over long periods, when urine testing is not practical. There are also surface drug tests that test for the metabolite of parent drug groups in the residue of drugs left in sweat.
Drug-testing a blood sample measures whether or not a drug or a metabolite is in the body at a particular time. These types of tests are considered to be the most accurate way of telling if a person is intoxicated. Blood drug tests are not used very often because they need specialized equipment and medically trained administrators.
Depending on how much marijuana was consumed, it can usually be detected in blood tests within six hours of consumption. After six hours has passed, the concentration of marijuana in the blood decreases significantly. It generally disappears completely within 30 days.
Anabolic steroids are used to enhance performance in sport and as they are prohibited in most high-level competitions drug testing is used extensively in order to enforce this prohibition. This particularly so in individual (rather than team) sports such as athletics and cycling.
Random drug testing
Can occur at anytime, usually when the investigator has reason to believe that a substance is possibly being abused by the subject by behavior or immediately after an employee-related accident occurs during work hours.
Urine drug testing
Urine drug test kits are available as on-site tests, or laboratory analysis. Urinalysis is the most common test type and used by federally mandated drug testing programs and is considered the Gold Standard of drug testing. Urine based tests have been upheld in most courts for more than 30 years, however, urinalysis conducted by the Department of Defense has been challenged for reliability of testing the metabolite of cocaine. There are two associated metabolites of cocaine, benzoylecgonine (BZ) and ecgonine methyl ester (EME), the first (BZ) is created by the presence of cocaine in an aqeous solution with a pH greater than 7.0, while the second (EME) results from the actual human metabolic process. The presence of EME confirms actual ingestion of cocaine by a human being, while the presence of BZ is indicative only. BZ without EME is evidence of sample contamination, however, the US Department of Defense has chosen not to test for EME in its urinalysis program.
A disadvantage of saliva based drug testing is that it is not approved by FDA or SAMHSA for use with DOT / Federal Mandated Drug Testing. Oral fluid is not considered a bio-hazard unless there is visible blood; however, it should be treated with care.
Before testing samples, the tamper-evident seal is checked for integrity. If it appears to have been tampered with or damaged, the laboratory rejects the sample and does not test it.
Next, the sample must be made testable. Urine and oral fluid can be used “as is” for some tests, but other tests require the drugs to be extracted from urine. Strands of hair, patches, and blood must be prepared before testing. Hair is washed in order to eliminate second-hand sources of drugs on the surface of the hair, then the keratin is broken down using enzymes. Blood plasma may need to be separated by centrifuge from blood cells prior to testing. Sweat patches are opened and the sweat collection component is removed and soaked in a solvent to dissolve any drugs present.
Laboratory-based drug testing is done in two steps. The first step is the screening test, which is an immunoassay based test applied to all samples. The second step, known as the confirmation test, is usually undertaken by a laboratory using highly specific chromatographic techniques and only applied to samples that test positive during the screening test. Screening tests are usually done by immunoassay (EMIT, ELISA, and RIA are the most common). A “dipstick” drug testing method which could provide screening test capabilities to field investigators has been developed at the University of Illinois.
After a suspected positive sample is detected during screening, the sample is tested using a confirmation test. Samples that are negative on the screening test are discarded and reported as negative. The confirmation test in most laboratories (and all SAMHSA certified labs) is performed using mass spectrometry, and is precise but expensive. False positive samples from the screening test will almost always be negative on the confirmation test. Samples testing positive during both screening and confirmation tests are reported as positive to the entity that ordered the test. Most laboratories save positive samples for some period of months or years in the event of a disputed result or lawsuit. For workplace drug testing, a positive result is generally not confirmed without a review by a Medical Review Officer who will normally interview the subject of the drug test.
Hair drug testing
Hair drug testing is a method that can detect drug use over a much longer period of time, and is often used for highly safety-critical positions where there is zero tolerance of illegal drug use. Standard hair follicle screen covers a period of 30 to 90 days. The growth of hair is usually at the rate of 0.5 inches per month. The hair sample is cut close to the scalp and 80 to 120 strands of hair are needed for the test. In the absence of hair on the head, body hair can be used as an acceptable substitute. Even if the person being tested has a shaved head, hair can also be taken from almost any other area of the body. This includes facial hair, the underarms, arms, and legs or even pubic hair. Because body hair grows at a different rate than head hair, the timeframe changes, with scientists estimating that drug use can be detected in body hair for up to 12 months. Currently, most entities that use hair testing have prescribed consequences for individuals removing hair to avoid a hair drug test.
The claim that a hair test cannot be tampered with has been shown to be debatable. One study has shown that THC does not readily deposit inside epithelial cells so it is possible for cosmetic and other forms of adulteration to reduce the amount of testable cannabinoids within a hair sample.
United States Legality, ethics and politics
In consultation with Dr. Carlton Turner, President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12564. In doing so, he instituted mandatory drug-testing for all safety-sensitive executive-level and civil-service Federal employees. This was challenged in the courts by the National Treasury Employees Union. In 1988, this challenge was considered by the US Supreme Court. A similar challenge resulted in the Court extending the drug-free workplace concept to the private sector. These decisions were then incorporated into the White House Drug Control Strategy directive issued by President George H.W. Bush in 1989. All defendants serving on federal probation or federal supervised release are required to submit to at least three drug tests. Failing a drug test can be construed as possession of a controlled substance, resulting in mandatory revocation and imprisonment.
There have been inconsistent evaluation results as to whether continued pretrial drug testing has beneficial effects.
Testing positive can lead to bail not being granted, or if bail has already been granted, to bail revocation or other sanctions. Arizona also adopted a law in 1987 authorizing mandatory drug testing of felony arrestees for the purpose of informing the pretrial release decision, and the District of Columbia has had a similar law since the 1970s. It has been argued that one of the problems with such testing is that there is often not enough time between the arrest and the bail decision to confirm positive results using GC/MS technology. It has also been argued that such testing potentially implicates the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, the right to due process (including the prohibition against gathering evidence in a manner that shocks the conscience or constitutes outrageous government conduct), and the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures contained in the Fourth Amendment.
According to Henriksson, the anti-drug appeals of the Reagan administration “created an environment in which many employers felt compelled to implement drug testing programs because failure to do so might be perceived as condoning drug use. This fear was easily exploited by aggressive marketing and sales forces, who often overstated the value of testing and painted a bleak picture of the consequences of failing to use the drug testing product or service being offered.” On March 10, 1986, the Commission on Organized Crime asked all U.S. companies to test employees for drug use. By 1987, nearly 25% of the Fortune 500 companies used drug tests.
According to co-study done by DATIA and Society for Human Resource Management in 2012 (sample of 6,000 randomly selected human resource professionals), human resource professionals reported the following results after implementing a drug testing program: 19% of companies experienced an increase in employee productivity, 15% reported decrease in absenteeism, 56% reported improvement of workers’ compensation incidence rates and 16% employee turnover decreased.
According to US Chamber of Commerce 70% of all illicit drug users are employed. Some industries have high rates of employee drug use such as construction (12.8%), repair (11.1%), and hospitality (7.9-16.3%).
In 2009, a Belgian bodybuilding championship was canceled after doping officials showed up and the competitors fled. Likewise, in 2010, Iranian super heavyweight class weightlifters refused to submit to a drug test authorized by the Iran Weightlifting League. In 2000, an Australian Mining Company South Blackwater Coal Ltd with 400 employees, imposed drug-testing procedures, and the trade unions advised their members to refuse to take the tests, partly because a positive result does not necessarily indicate present impairment; the workers were stood-down by the company without pay for a week. In 2006, Levy County, Florida volunteer librarians resigned en masse rather than take drug tests. In 2003, sixteen members of the Chicago White Sox considered refusing to take a drug test, in hopes of making steroid testing mandatory. In the United States federal criminal system, refusing to take a drug test triggers an automatic revocation of probation or supervised release.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition also attacked the report.
“President Obama keeps saying he is open to a discussion but he never seems willing to actually have that discussion,” said LEAP Director Neil Franklin said in a press release. “Polls show that three out of four U.S. voters think the ‘war on drugs’ is a failure and a majority now support marijuana legalization. The time for real change is now, but at the Summit of the Americas President Obama announced more than $130 million in aid to fund the continued effort to arrest drug traffickers in Latin America. This prohibition strategy hasn’t worked in the past and it cannot work in the future. Latin American leaders know it, and President Obama must know it. Let’s stop the charade and begin to bring drugs under control through legalization.”
Former ONDCP senior advisor Kevin Sabet, meanwhile, is doing promotion for the report, which he refers to as “Wake Up and Grow Up.” In anticipating criticism of the report, Sabet writes, “The 2012 release is likely to be attacked by those who are waiting for the day the President will make a U-turn and support legalization—but attackers will unfortunately miss the nuance and striking clarity which characterizes this particular document and its connection with the first Strategy.” Fun fact: Sabet wrote the first strategy!
More Reason on Obama’s drug policies, including investments in police violence, the myth that the president’s policies are “compassionate” and Jacob Sullum’s must-read feature on how Obama turned out to be just another drug warrior.
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