Pubdate: Fri, 10 Aug 2007
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2007 The Miami Herald
Author: Evan S. Benn And Frank Greve
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


Workplace Drug Tests Showed A Big Decline In Cocaine Use Across The 
Country And Especially In South Florida.

Cocaine use in South Florida's workforce has experienced a sharp 
decline this year compared to 2006, mirroring a national trend that 
shows the drug's use at a 10-year low, a leading U.S. testing firm reports.

"The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area saw a dramatic decline of 
approximately 18.1 percent in cocaine positivity rates among 
workers," said Barry Sample, the director of science and technology 
for employee testing at Quest Diagnostics. "This drop may suggest 
that employees in the area either are choosing not to use cocaine or 
lack access to the drug."

Nationwide, there was a 16 percent drop in positive workplace drug 
tests for cocaine in the first six months of the year, Quest 
announced Thursday.

The Lyndhurst, N.J.,-based company compiled its report on 4.4 million 
drug tests conducted from January through June. The nationwide rate 
- -- about one test in every 172 was positive for cocaine -- is the 
lowest in the 10 years since Quest began reporting cocaine in its 
testing index, a widely used benchmark.

In the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area, about one in every 147 drug 
tests came back positive for cocaine, based on Quest's data for the 
first six months of the year. In 2006, it was one in every 120 tests.

Those tested included people from the general work force as well as 
those with jobs that require federally mandated drug tests, like 
pilots, truck and bus drivers and nuclear power plant employees.

White House drug czar John Walters cheered the Quest report's findings.

Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said 
cocaine has become harder to find and more expensive in many cities, 
although Miami and Fort Lauderdale were not included in a list of 
cities he said were experiencing that trend. Cocaine scarcity and 
price spikes have been reported in New York, Philadelphia, Los 
Angeles, Atlanta and Washington, Walters said.

Emergency-room visits for cocaine-related problems also are down, 
Walters said, adding that he has

never seen so many cocaine-use trends "pointing in the same direction."

Walters credited drug-trafficking crackdowns in Colombia and Mexico, 
which together supply about 90 percent of the cocaine that goes to 
the United States.

Major drug interdictions could also have contributed to the decline. 
Earlier this year, two huge seizures in the eastern Pacific took more 
than 41 tons of cocaine out of circulation, disrupting a supply line 
to U.S. customers.

Quest's report on Thursday came as President Bush prepares to offer 
Mexican President Felipe Calderon a massive drug interdiction aid 
program when the two meet at the North American summit in Quebec on 
Aug. 20 and 21. Colombia, which has a U.S. drug-aid package pending 
on Capitol Hill, already has received $5 billion under a joint 
multi-pronged quasi-military campaign called Plan Colombia.

While confirming a general decline in U.S. cocaine use, Thomas 
Pietschmann, a senior researcher at the United Nations Office on 
Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria, thought it might reflect growing 
demand in Europe, at least in part.

"Cocaine is still a celebrity drug here," Pietschmann said. "It 
doesn't have the bad reputation that it does in the U.S."

Miami Herald staff writers Pablo Bachelet and Andres Amerikaner 
contributed to this report. Greve reported from Washington.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman