Pubdate: [Sat, 21 Dec 1996]
Source: Skagit Valley Herald (WA)
Author: Ralph Seeley

Regarding "Teen Drug Use: The testing has worked," Dec. 11: Drug use is not
a horrific monster." We are a drug-using species. Which drugs we use
without government concern is arbitrary, at best, in the sense that there
is no correlation between which drug harms you physically and which will
land you in jail. (It is well established that tobacco is more harmful than
marijuana, for example, both in its direct harm and in its "gateway to hard
drugs" characteristic.)

Drug testing of teens presents several problems. First, it may keep kids
from using marijuana, known to be easily detectable for a long time, and
result in them using something far more harmful. Second, the "guilty until
you prove yourself innocent" approach generates resentment toward
government. Third, false positives ruin peoples' lives. (A "positive"
reading on a test that is 95 percent accurate means only that there is a
50-50 chance the person used the drug - but tell that to the bureaucracy
that spits out the "reject" slip.)

The answer is easy - test for impairment, not for the presence of a
chemical in the blood or breath. One dirt-simple test: How long can you
balance a pencil? Of course, there is a multi-billion-dollar industry
growing around the "need" to drug-test people, so why should we bother with
simple, safe, non-intrusive methods like that?

We all need to ask ourselves whether we're helping our kids, or whether
we're caught up in "drug war" hysteria, for which we as a society should be
ashamed of ourselves.

Ralph Seeley