For Some, Drug Tests Are Almost Impossible

For Some, Drug Tests Are Almost Impossible
Posted by FoM on April 14, 2002 at 08:56:45 PT
By Sana Siwolop
Source: New York Times
Joseph Kinneary's inability to urinate in close proximity to other people almost cost him his job. Even now, he is fighting sanctions that have relegated him to desk work from his old perch as a boat captain for New York City.It might sound like the stuff of late-night comedy, but the anxiety disorder that plagues Mr. Kinneary is a harsh reality for a surprisingly large number of men. For some of them, it can be a career killer because it deprives them of the ability to produce urine for random drug tests.
Now, though, those who suffer from the syndrome, technically called paruresis but more commonly referred to as shy bladder syndrome, are beginning to fight back. They argue that penalties exacted against them by their employers, from demotions to dismissals, violate antidiscrimination laws. They are demanding the right to request alternate forms of drug testing. And a few are risking ridicule by going public.Mr. Kinneary, 48, is one of them. As a sludge tanker captain for the New York City Environmental Protection Department, he would often put in 12-hour days piloting a 320-foot-long vessel through the waters surrounding the city. Then, in late December, he was ordered to produce urine for an on-the-job drug test, a routine procedure required by virtually all public employers and many private ones.He could not comply. Paruresis can render its victims incapable of urinating in public places, like crowded theater bathrooms or airplane stalls. In extreme cases, the fear is so strong that victims can relieve themselves only at home, meaning that they either have to work at home or find a job that is a quick drive away.It was not the first time that Mr. Kinneary had to undergo the test, but he managed to finesse his way through three previous ones. The first time, in 1992, he actually managed to produce a sample after trying for two days. On two other occasions, he sneaked tap water into the cup. In December, he sought unsuccessfully to get results by drinking three quarts of water.Early last winter, both the Environmental Protection Department and the Coast Guard accused him of misconduct for failing to take a drug test; the city also put him on leave without pay or benefits. It reinstated him in late March but gave him a desk job. Meantime, the Coast Guard has begun proceedings to suspend his marine license."I'm still being asked to give a urine test" by the city, he said. "I feel like I'm stuck in the middle, and neither the city nor the Coast Guard seems willing to move on my case."So is his predicament a workplace anomaly? Not according to Steven Soifer, an associate professor of social work at the University of Maryland and a founder of the International Paruresis Association -- -- six years ago with Carl Robbins, a Maryland therapist. Professor Soifer says the group has received more than 100 phone calls or e-mail messages from shy-bladder sufferers about workplace drug testing, about a quarter from people who had lost their jobs or were in jeopardy of losing them.Though hard numbers on the incidence of shy-bladder syndrome are hard to come by, Professor Soifer says some studies suggest that 7 percent of Americans and Canadians suffer some form of it."Most employers simply assume that the person is making the symptoms up," said Professor Soifer, who has himself had the condition since he was a teenager.Though most paruresis suffers who seek treatment are men, women suffer from it, too. Theresa Baker, a social worker in Lancaster, Pa., suspects hers originated when she was yelled at by a bus driver at the age of 7, an incident so frightening that she was unable to urinate the next day before going to school.Ms. Baker voiced a common complaint of paruresis victims: They are shut out from other forms of drug testing. In applying for a job at a hospital in June 2000, she says, she tried but failed three times to produce a urine sample. Her prospective employer treated her kindly but still would not allow her to substitute a blood test or undergo a catheterization. In desperation, she had a urologist teach her how to catheterize herself so that she could produce the urine.Professor Soifer says most employers and most drug-testing clinics have no idea how traumatic it can be for a shy-bladder sufferer to try to urinate in a public place. Many mistakenly assume that drinking large quantities of water will solve the problem."I've known people who have held their bladder for 24 hours," he said. "Once the fear kicks in, these people literally are locked up, and usually require catheterization in a hospital."James Murphy, a former maintenance worker for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, says he believes that his shy bladder cost him his job. In a six-hour effort to produce a urine sample in May 1999, he says, he drank a 20-ounce soft drink and about three quarts of water, to no avail. The pain became so severe that he found himself screaming, he says, provoking jeers from his supervisor and the drug tester.Over the next 10 months, Mr. Murphy says, he wrote two letters to his employer demanding an apology. In one, he remarked  tongue in cheek, he says  that he could "see how a person could lose control of himself and kill somebody." He says he was forced to resign in June 2000 at age 57.Dwain Keltner, a manager at Mr. Murphy's old department, says he was let go partly because of poor performance, including threats to the agency. Mr. Murphy disputes that assertion. "They just kept telling me to drink more water, drink more water," he said. "I couldn't stand the abuse."Mr. Kinneary is angry too. Since December, he says, he was found to be drug free in one blood test and two hair tests that he paid for and in a saliva test that was ordered by his employer after a failed four-and-a-half-hour effort to produce a urine sample.The New York City Environmental Protection Department declined to comment on his case. Ken Edgell, a senior drug enforcement official at the Transportation Department, which oversees the Coast Guard, says regulations allow shy-bladder sufferers who can document their condition to undergo an alternative evaluation by a physician.But paruresis sufferers say it is often impossible to document their condition because they are frequently unaware that they have a medical problem until they must produce a urine sample. Richard Elliott, an investigating officer at the Coast Guard, said that Mr. Kinneary was given five days to produce documentation this past winter, but "what he came up with was not adequate."It is an open question whether the Americans With Disabilities Act covers people with paruresis, legal specialists say, because they must show that their disorder significantly interferes with a major life activity, and neither the federal government nor the courts have ruled on whether urination fits that category.While alternative tests to urine sampling exist, experts say it will be years before the federal government adopts rules governing them. So those afflicted with shy bladder have little option but to hope for the best and go to court if they must.In Connecticut, a 28-year-old scientist and shy-bladder sufferer who applied for a job with a large beverage company last spring says that he threatened to sue his prospective employer when he learned it would not accept the results of a pre-employment blood test. The company hired him last summer, but he says he is afraid to go public for fear of losing his job.Still, in a recent e-mail message, he urged people who find themselves in his shoes to fight back, "In the end," he said, "you will win." Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Sana SiwolopPublished: April 14, 2002Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company Contact: letters Website: Forum: CannabisNews Drug Testing Archives
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Comment #3 posted by E_Johnson on April 14, 2002 at 12:52:33 PT
Journalism, capitalism, Communism and rape
The reporters are all being pee-tested, that's why.They have an automatic filter coming into the job so that anyone with a shred of mental independence is eliminated in the Urine Trials.Anyone who lets their employer look into their pants is an fairly submissive person who can be more easily controlled by authority than someone who could not bear the thought of kowtowing to such coercion.I don't know why people do not understand that a urine test is a sexual invasion, it is sexual harassment from the top down.It is the most odious type of abuse that employers have visited upon employees throughout history -- demanding access to their private sexual parts.It's modern sexual slavery, in a sense.It's like we're becoming ancient Rome, where your slavemaster can just reach into your pants and see what's there without you having any power at all to stop it.This really is a kind of rape.In a way it does tend to validate left feminists who claim that capitalism is just a glorified form of rape.But then one could look at it also as a kind of creeping Communism, where the traditional American economic system ib=ncreasingly becomes used as a tool for social engineering and loses its capitalist competitive aspect gradually through the increasing adoption of costly tools of social control.
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Comment #2 posted by Lehder on April 14, 2002 at 10:26:25 PT
sorry about the typos
I was having to cross my legs and twist my face, I had to piss so bad while finishing that quick comment. 
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Comment #1 posted by Lehder on April 14, 2002 at 10:13:39 PT
whiz test
count me among these people who cannot piss while being scrutinized or hassled. i alway use a toilet stall and lock the door. i do fine in small restrooms without stalls too, provided that the door locks and no one starts pounding on it. one time while hiking and camping out after a long effort in science, i found myself reverting to instinctive, animal behavior. it was really great being outdoors in themountains and fine weather for a change. during the hike i noticed after a while that i had pissed here, there, everywhere, every hundred yards or so, every ten minutes maybe. i had become a feral beast, a cave man, staking out his territory along with the it's not a physical problem. in fact it's not a problem at all - until some drug warrior wants a bottle of piss on demand and while he scrutinizes the pissing. but it my case, the question is entirely academic as i refuse to take piss tests on political grounds, and i have many strong reasons - moral, political, personal - for refusing the type of work that i formerly did and that requires a piss test. regulations allow shy-bladder sufferers who can
   document their condition to undergo an alternative evaluation by a physicianridiculous. as i said, it's not a problem - until a drug warrior shows up. why would anyone pay a physician $75 or more just to tell her that "i can't piss when you're looking"? no one has any reason to "document" this or seek "help" - until a drug warrior threatens one's employment.i once lived with a lady who a a young daughter with a similar condition. the girl never drank anything with her breakfast because she was afraid of pissing in thetoilet stalls at her school. she just kept he bladder as empty as possible and pissed at home at day's end.she was smart enough to skip grades 7 and 8 in her school, but evidently not good enough to pilot a boat in ny harbor.this is just another of the hundreds of ways that the worthless and destructive war on drugs marginalizes and rejects many many honest and very capable people, replacing them with others far less so, evenbrutishand stupid. as the article says, many people are losing their jobs over this absurdity. that's one of the reasons that the united states will destroy itself with it's drug-war bigotry and stupidity.i don't give a whit what you might think of this. no one is perfect, and odds are that i'm a lot better looking than you!PAZ,'Carlos'
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