Free Drug Tests By Police Raise Accuracy Worries 

Free Drug Tests By Police Raise Accuracy Worries 
Posted by FoM on December 08, 1999 at 08:04:47 PT
Associated Press
Source: Seattle P-I
Two years ago, Molalla became the first city in Oregon where parents could get kids suspected of illegal drug use tested free by the police.
Civil liberties groups don't like it, but state groups representing police chiefs and sheriffs say they want similar testing in 10 more Oregon cities beginning early next year.They say the quick-result urine tests used in Molalla offer parents effective, early intervention to combat drug use. Molalla police report that 82 of 110 youths screened in the past two years tested positive.But some experts say the tests' efficiency -- providing results within minutes -- comes at a cost.Lab studies of the Roche TestCup used in Molalla and similar devices show the tests miss or falsely identify drugs in many instances. That is reason enough, toxicologists say, that parents should always get results confirmed by more accurate and more expensive lab tests.Forensic toxicologists, such as Kent Johnson of Metro Lab in Portland, say there is evidence to suggest quick urinalysis tests should be used as "screening devices only," not as the final word.A study published this year showed the Roche TestCup and similar tests missed or falsely identified the presence of marijuana, methamphetamine and other drugs in urine samples. A study ordered in 1996 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of 15 quick tests shows several of the tests can have accuracy rates as low as 60 percent.Johnson said over-the-counter medications containing antihistamines or pseudoephedrine, found in allergy and cold medications, also can affect test results.Makers of the onsite tests say the study sample was too limited and argue their tests perform adequately when used properly.Toxicologists agree the sample size was small, but say the results reflect what other studies have found. Furthermore, they say, lab technology is more accurate.Technology inside the lab -- specifically a process called gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry -- has an accuracy rate of 99.9 percent, according to toxicologists interviewed by The Oregonian newspaper.But Roche officials, who say their tests correctly identify the presence of drugs in more than 96 percent of urine samples, also say the big labs are concerned that the popular test kits are squeezing their profits.Police think the tests are accurate enough. The 10 cities in the pilot program will be announced in January, said Kevin Campbell, executive director of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police in Salem.The group, along with Oregon State Police and the Oregon State Sheriff's Association, plans to finance the program initially, asking cities to seek local money thereafter, Campbell said.Questions about the accuracy of the quick tests surfaced last summer after police groups announced plans to adopt the Molalla program.Chief Rob Elkins says officers in Molalla, a community of 5,400 in southern Clackamas County, take no action against children who test positive, and that test results are kept confidential. National police groups have said they are unaware of any other free drug testing in the nation conducted by police.Elkins said his department will continue the program, despite concerns from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union that police might target children who test positive.In all cases where children test positive, officers encourage parents to seek professional counseling and get results confirmed by labs, Elkins said. Still, when children admit they have used drugs and "if we have a test that shows positive, I don't really see a need for the confirmation test," he said.Published: December 8, 1999 1999 The Associated Press.Cannabis News Drug Testing Articles:
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