Pubdate: Sat, 19 Feb 2005
Source: Huntsville Times (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Huntsville Times
Author: David Prather
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


A New Drug Test Is A Step Forward - As Long As It's Not Abused

Science marches on inexorably. But sometimes it heads in potentially
dangerous directions. New technology that can test for drug use is an
example of such truths.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania are on their way to
creating a kit - about the size of a credit card - that will make drug
tests easier to administer.

By spitting on a piece of sponge, analysts will be able to determine
if someone has drugs in their system.

"It's easily accessible, noninvasive and not embarrassing," said a
scientist developing the technology. "You don't have to greet an
employee with a urine cup."

The procedure is already being used in Europe, and U.S. business and
law enforcement are intrigued. It may also have other benefits in the
future, such as detecting bacterial and viral infections, or one day
even certain types of cancer.

All in all, it's a step forward, except....

Except when the very ease of use expands the scope of drug-testing
beyond what's appropriate or necessary or wantonly imperils personal

Obviously, it's in society's compelling interest to make sure that
certain people - school bus drivers, railroad engineers, police
officers, for example - are not be under the influence of debilitating
drugs. And it's not unreasonable to require the testing of these
people because of the seriousness of their responsibilities in their

Likewise, it's legitimate for an employer to require drug tests before
hiring an employee. If you don't want to take the test, don't seek the

But it would be ludicrous, for example, for employers to stand at the
workplace entrance each day with one of those small kits and test a
worker not involved in dangerous jobs every day - just because the
test is so easy to administer.

Americans require and demand personal freedom. That's what this
country is based on. To treat everyone as a potential criminal just
because it's easy to do so flies in the face of the liberty that has
become the mantra of the Bush administration and should be the
inalienable right of every U.S. citizen.

False security

And here's another caveat: The saliva drug test is, fortunately,
proving more reliable than other drug tests because drug users haven't
found a way to beat it as they have with urine and blood tests.

That's a false sense of security. Every drug test is initially
trumpeted as infallible. Someone, so far, has found ways to beat them
all. History would indicate it's only a matter of time until the
saliva test results are breached.

Still, it's a step forward if the urine cup goes the way of the "Pet
Rock" or eight-track tapes. It's a demeaning method of testing for
drug use.

The saliva test is a better approach. But abusing drug tests would be
as deplorable as abusing drugs would be.
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