Pubdate: Mon, 17 Jan 2005
Source: Businessworld (Philippines)
Copyright: 2005 BusinessWorld
Author: Dr. Benita Sta. Ana-Ponio, FPPA
Note: Dr. Ponio is the executive director of Metro Psych Facility and Roads 
and Bridges to Recovery Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center. She is 
the founding and current president of the Group for Addiction Psychiatry in 
the Philippines.
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Drug Test)


Another new year has unfolded. A new year that hopefully will be a better 
one than the last.

The new year also means that two months from now I am going to observe 
another birthday that so happens to coincide with the expiry of my driver's 
license which I will have to renew perfunctorily. During the renewal 
process, I will need to undergo a mandatory drug test by virtue of Section 
36 of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Comprehensive 
Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (RA 9165).

It is upon studying this section of the republic act that I have often 
wondered how many have tested positive for drugs during such tests. An 
associate of mine went to verify the numbers with Pasig's DrugWatch and not 
surprisingly, as of November 2004, nobody has yet tested positive.

In my own logic, if I were a drug user, I would not even think of renewing 
my license knowing that I would test positive for drugs; instead, 
postponing it until such time that I know I would be "substantially clean" 
to successfully undergo the drug test. The fine of P35 for late renewal is 
a small price to pay in lieu of suffering a six-month program in a 
government drug rehabilitation center for being reported as positive drug 
user under the same law.

I have worked with recovering substance abusers for the last 13 years of my 
life. And among them, I have discovered the smartest and most paranoid 
people I have ever met among long-term drug users and I have yet to find 
one who would fall for this trap except maybe those who have just started 
to use illegal drugs.

Yet when one takes recent vehicular accident statistics into account, only 
18% of vehicular accidents can be attributed to drugs (e.g., marijuana and 
cocaine), these "drivers/drug-users" are not responsible for most vehicular 
accidents. In the United States, it is the alcohol-related vehicular 
accident that kills someone every 30 minutes and injures someone every two 
minutes. Nearly two-thirds of children under 15 who died in alcohol-related 
crashes between 1985 and 1996 were riding with an inebriated driver. More 
than two-thirds of the intoxicated drivers were old enough to be the parent 
of the child who was killed, and fewer than 20% of the children killed were 
properly restrained at the time of the crash.

One can only speculate whether they were tested for drugs or alcohol during 
the issuance or renewal of their driver's license. Maybe, just maybe, the 
ones issuing licenses (the United States' DMV, in this case) find it 
irrelevant despite the staggering statistics.

I am uncertain whether our esteemed lawmakers studied the Philippines' 
vehicular accident statistics before they came up with a law that makes 
taxpayers shell out P250 to have their urine tested prior to the renewal of 
their driver's license.

If they did (which is doubtful, owing to the lack of any source for such 
information), they would probably realize that there is more sense in 
performing random testing of drivers involved in traffic accidents and 
violations for alcohol and drug levels. Note that, there are more 
alcohol-related vehicular accidents compared to those of other drugs.

In conducting a standard premeditated drug test, the element of 
unpredictability or randomness is eliminated thus giving the "drug testee" 
a chance to postpone, avoid or prepare for an impending drug test. In most 
cases, since driving is a major source of income for those operating 
tricycles, jeepneys and taxicabs, postponing or avoiding the test could 
mean an abrupt halt in their means of livelihood; so preparation for the 
drug tests remains as the most viable solution to sustain their income.

To prepare for a drug test is relatively easy if one is crafty enough to 
cheat the drug test by using any resourceful means whatsoever, or if one is 
ready to invest a small amount to bribe the drug tester. Since Filipinos 
are known to be highly inventive and resourceful people, it is not beneath 
them to invent a crude contraption that could secrete fake urine into the 
tester's bottle or devise a technique of swapping their own urine bottles 
with some others' containing "clean" urine. It does not help either to know 
that the Philippines is one of the many Third World countries where 
corruption in the government is ubiquitous, making it effortlessly 
convenient to relinquish money to an official to get what one wants.

In medicine, we manage our patients guided by evidence based on treatment 
guidelines that have gone through rigorous scrutiny from those who proposed 
them, to the panel consumers, and by experts that have approved them prior 
to having it published. I am not a lawyer and I am supposed to trust those 
who craft our laws to have studied every aspect of any act that they 
propose in congress. But when I look at something as ridiculous as this, I 
begin to doubt the efficacy and reliability of our laws.

Might we want to reconsider amending them?
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