Pubdate: Tue, 28 Aug 2001
Source: Stars and Stripes - European Edition (Europe)
Copyright: 2001 Stars and Stripes
Note: LTEs require name, APO address and phone number
Author: Kent Harris, Stars and Stripes
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


AVIANO AB, Italy  The war on drug use has hit home for Air Force officials 
as they continue their battle against airmen using illegal drugs. Concerns 
have grown as officials watch more and more airmen find trouble with 
designer drugs such as Ecstasy.

A recent set of recommendations by the Air Force Drug Abuse Reduction team 
concluded that there "was an increase in drug use in the Air Force," 
according to Maj. Janice Pegram, the team's chief.

That's based at least partially on an increase of airmen caught using drugs.

It's also supported by the numbers:

Last year, the Air Force handled more than 580 drug-related cases -- 176 of 
them for Ecstasy, according to a special agent for the Air Force Office of 
Special Investigation in Washington, D.C. In 1999, Ecstasy was involved in 
just 66 of the more than 700 drug cases.

While investigations have increased, busting people using the drug has not.

In fiscal 2000, of the 21,174 USAFE airmen tested under the mandatory 
random testing system, only three tested positive for Ecstasy. The drug of 
choice, according to the random testing, remains marijuana.

So is it a greater number of airmen using, or just a greater number getting 

"I think it's a combination of the two," Pegram said from her office in the 

Jim Landreth, the man in charge of testing for illegal substances at 
Aviano, said the drug testing works more as a deterrent.

"Although," he said, "they'll catch people in the process."

Aviano, however, seems to have a very strong record against people using drugs.

The base has not tossed anyone out of the military for illegal drug use 
since February 2000. And that's not for a lack of testing. Aviano, like 
other bases, will test an airman if a superior provides good reason to do 
so. Others in the community are also tested regularly.

Additionally, Landreth has conducted three random weekend tests -- 
partially because of Ecstasy -- since the end of May. The drug can flush 
out of a person's system quickly.

The result? One positive -- for a prescription drug.

It's not that illegal drugs aren't available around Aviano.

Landreth said airmen could buy Ecstasy at Italian clubs even though Italian 
police have targeted distributors and producers in regular sweeps.

Young airmen, aged 18 to 25, seem to be the Air Force's chief concern. 
"That's when you want to try everything," Landreth said. "You're 
invincible. You're bulletproof."

That invulnerability probably doesn't carry over when it comes to giving up 
your urine, though.

"I know one way of beating the test," Landreth said, his voice lowering to 
a conspiratorial whisper. Then he winks: "Don't use."

SIDEBAR: Proposed initiatives

Initiatives proposed by the Air Force Drug Abuse Reduction Team:

- - Test recruits at entrance processing stations for the same drugs the Air 
Force tests for.

- - Use random weekend and holiday urinalysis testing.

- - Expand instruction to commanders, emphasizing options available to them 
and the impact of drug abuse on the missions they command.

- - Field standardized substance abuse awareness programs at all bases.

- - Use commander's call visits to relate the effects illegal drugs have on 
health and careers.

- - Highlight zero tolerance in internal media.

- - Continue to emphasize the importance of the issue in chief-of-staff messages.

- - Create awareness videos for use by commanders and for airmen.

- - Establish the judge advocate general as the focal point to integrate data 
and determine trends.
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MAP posted-by: GD