Drug Tests Turn Up Use of Tobacco, Marijuana

Drug Tests Turn Up Use of Tobacco, Marijuana
Posted by FoM on August 08, 2000 at 10:31:34 PT
By Ruth E. Sternberg, Dispatch Schools Reporter 
Source: Columbus Dispatch
Nicotine and THC from marijuana are the chemicals most likely to show up in the urine of central Ohio high-school athletes tested randomly for drugs, according to results from districts. An increasing number of high schools -- and some middle schools -- have begun testing athletes since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that such a test is not an unreasonable search. 
Last month, the Dublin Board of Education voted to begin testing athletes at random, joining seven other central Ohio school districts: Pickerington and Fairfield Union in Fairfield County, Fairbanks and Marysville in Union County, Olentangy in Delaware County, Logan Elm in Pickaway County and London in Madison County. Dublin Superintendent Stephen Anderson would like to test all students. "It's such a major issue in our schools,'' Anderson said of drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. "The only reason we're doing athletes is it's the only area where the Supreme Court has given us authority.'' But a Children's Hospital pediatrician who works with drug-addicted teens thinks that only youngsters who show signs of drug use should be tested. "I wouldn't call it fascist,'' Dr. Peter Rogers said of random tests, "but it's on the tip of my tongue.'' Rogers sits on a committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics that recently reviewed its 1996 stand against blanket drug-testing of adolescents; the group decided to stick with its view that such tests are punitive and a waste of time. "This kind of program just plays on parents' worst fears,'' he said. "It's terrible. "People who design these programs are very well-intentioned, but it's not the best use of somebody's money. I think sometimes it's these labs that are going to the schools and selling it. They are making a lot of money off it. It just infuriates me.'' The central Ohio districts ask laboratories to bid on their drug-testing programs and spend between $7,000 and $60,000 annually on them. In most cases, parents pay $26 for an initial test at the beginning of the sports season, and the district picks up the tab for random testing. Despite the cost, Pickerington school officials don't keep track of the results. The goal is not to see how many students they can catch but to protect youngsters from themselves, said Mark Aprile, athletic director at Pickerington High School. "The statistic that can't be kept is how many kids has it prevented from getting involved (with drugs)? How many kids has it kept in a situation where their tests come back negative? We can't tell that.'' The school's program, now in its fifth year, tests about 250 athletes each school year and generally finds one or two with a problem, Aprile said. Logan Elm officials refused to divulge their results. It's board policy, said high-school Athletic Director Dan Bise. School board President Debbie Shaw said she can assure parents that the testing program helps keep athletes off drugs, even though she won't give them any data. "Knowing the data, I guess there's a trust factor,'' she said. "They're just going to have to trust me.'' Other districts mostly find evidence of tobacco and marijuana use. For example, last academic year in London schools, which tests athletes in grades seven through 12, seven of 325 athletes who took 800 tests screened positive, all for smoking cigarettes, Athletic Director Terry Nance said. The number with positive drug tests has dropped through the years, Nance said. The testing program turned up 25 athletes in 1996-97; 20 in 1997-98 and 12 in 1998-99. Of all the students, three tested positive for marijuana and one had been drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes and marijuana, he said; all the others had been smoking cigarettes. Marysville High School has been testing athletes for two years, Athletic Director Cal Adams said. Five students tested positive for forbidden substances, mostly tobacco, during the 1998-99 school year, and two tested positive last school year, he said. At Olentangy High School, five students tested positive in both the first and second years of testing, and two did last school year, Athletic Director Jay Wolfe said. Last year's students were using marijuana, he said. Fairfield Union started testing last school year and found one positive test, for marijuana, said George Shreyer, high-school athletic director. The student, a senior, was one game shy of completing the spring season and left the team rather than attend counseling, Shreyer said. He sees the value of the testing as giving students a reason to say no when someone offers them a beer or a joint: "That athlete can say, 'I can't do that. Shreyer might test me.' '' Aprile said it's proper to single out athletes for testing. "If you're under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you have a greater risk of being injured or injuring someone else,'' he said. School officials discount the idea that few drugs show up because few students use them. Dublin's Anderson cited the most recent triennial survey of the Franklin County Safe and Drug- Free Schools Consortium. In 1997, the agency surveyed 70,000 sixth- through 12th-graders from 16 public school districts and 36 private schools in Franklin County. It found that alcohol was the drug of choice and that cigarette smoking had increased since the 1994 survey. Forty-four percent of high-school students said they had smoked marijuana at least once; 34 percent of seniors said they got drunk at least once a month. That didn't surprise Anderson. "We just know it from talking with our students,'' he said. "They talk about the pressures they're under from the drug culture we live in.'' Despite such statistics, Rogers said that getting to know youngsters is the best way to keep track of what they are up to, not random testing. "Teen- agers have rights, too,'' he said. Steve Silverman agrees. He is campus coordinator for the Drug Reform Coordination Education Network in Washington, D.C. "I'd say, look at the activities of the kid. Is he acting out? Is he being violent or aggressive?'' Silverman said. "If that isn't there, why intrude upon somebody like this?'' Schools should educate, not punish, he said. "What's going to happen to the kid who may have smoked (marijuana) on the weekends and then gets busted? He's going to get kicked out of sports and out of that whole social group.'' Schools emphasize that they have progressive punishment, with counseling generally being the first consequence for a positive drug test. "Our program really pushes the counseling aspect,'' said Fairfield Union's Shreyer. "We don't want kids to quit sports.'' In most cases, athletic directors said, even players who must sit out part of the season return to the team. For example, at London High School, of the 64 athletes who have tested positive for drugs, only two in the history of the four-year testing program have completely lost their eligibility to play; they both refused to seek help. In Pickerington, Aprile said, a cheerleader was caught smoking and refused counseling. She isn't cheering anymore. He said another athlete was kicked off his team after he was caught drinking three times last school year. Shreyer said he wasn't always comfortable with testing students for drugs. "I don't like the Big Brother-type thing,'' he said. But he decided it might do some good. "What changed my mind? We had a young man commit suicide a few days after after he graduated,'' Shreyer said. "He was involved in drugs and things. That made me stop and look. If we had known, what could we have done? "It made us think. If this is one more way we can help kids find a way to say no, we were going to do it.'' Related Article from the Columbus Dispatch:Answers To Questions About The Drug Tests:Tuesday, August 8, 2000By Ruth E. Sternberg, Dispatch Schools Reporter Eating a poppy-seed bagel could make a person test positive for opiate use, but a closer examination will reveal the truth. Marijuana, depending on how much is smoked, can be detected in urine for up to a month. But a night of binge drinking might not show up in a test for alcohol a couple of days later. These are the answers to commonly asked questions about the drug-testing programs often aimed at teen-age athletes, said Dr. Joseph Franz, a Powell family physician, and Thomason Smith, manager of outreach laboratory services for Ohio State University Medical Center. Franz also operates Sports Safe, which collects urine samples from school athletes in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He sends the samples to a testing company in Illinois. Testing is a two-step process, the men said. First, urine is checked for broad categories of substances. Schools typically test for alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine, marijuana, nicotine and PCP. If any show up, a second test determines concentration levels and identifies specific drugs in those categories, such as codeine, heroin, speed and Valium. The concentration of the substance found, expressed in nanograms -- a millionth of a gram -- determines whether a test is positive. For example, a positive amphetamine sample contains at least 500 nanograms per milliliter of urine. A positive marijuana sample contains at least 15 nanograms per milliliter. Labs protect themselves against false-positive results by collecting two samples. One is frozen and kept in case a student's family wants the test redone at another lab. A doctor appointed by the school district talks to students whose tests are positive to see whether prescription or over-the-counter medicines could be responsible. "It could be an over-the-counter item in large quantities,'' Smith said. For example, cough medicine with codeine would make a test positive for opiates. So would poppy seeds, he said, but it's easy to find out whether real opiates are the cause. Each substance has its own molecular fingerprint. Poppy seeds and heroin wouldn't produce the same one. Many labs also test for substances that aren't drugs but that can mask their presence. Not all school districts pay for these extra tests, Franz said. Olentangy and Logan Elm, which both contract with Sports Safe, receive the additional analysis. "There's this stuff called Klear, which is potassium nitrite, which can block marijuana,'' Franz said. "You can hide it in your sock real easily,'' and put it in the urine sample. He has also heard of people adding baking soda, bleach, vinegar, Visine and WD-40 to try to hide the presence of drugs. Some products advertise that taking them before a test will mask drugs. But Franz said labs can figure out whether someone is has used a masking substance. For example, they question any sample that seems abnormally watered down, and many school districts will require the student to submit another sample. "It's very rare, and in any one school it probably happens once or twice during the year,'' Franz said. Even sneaking in a "clean'' sample of one's own urine, or someone else's, won't work because it will be cooler than body temperature. At Olentangy High School, the presence of a masking substance is considered a positive test, said Principal Robert Thompson, who recalled only one such instance in the three years the district has been testing. Smith said commercial masking agents don't work all that well anyway. It's the water that flushes the drugs out. "Everything that's sold . . . has in there, 'Drink copious amounts of water.' If you do that, anything that's in (the urine) is going to be diluted,'' he said. Dr. Peter Rogers, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital, said that's the reason urine drug tests aren't completely reliable. Many drugs, such as alcohol and barbiturates, are easily flushed from the body with a few glasses of water. Smith concurred. "If you drink on Friday, and you go out after a game and have 10 beers, by Monday it's not going to be there,'' he said. Some districts try to get around that with weekend testing. For example, Pickerington calls athletes on Saturday night and tells them to go to Fairfield Medical Center on Sunday. Rogers noted that the tests don't look for some drugs. "A lot of the drugs kids use now don't show up on drug screens -- drugs like LSD and Ecstasy,'' he said. "You can test for them, but it's expensive.'' Smith added GHB, also known as liquid Ecstasy and the date-rape drug, to the list. Rogers, who opposes random drug testing, said, "Kids know what drugs show up on urine screens. So kids won't smoke marijuana during the football season. They'll use something else.'' Franz said he doesn't agree. He was a team physician at Olentangy for nine years. "What was happening,'' he said, "was they would smoke some marijuana because they would think they'd play better because they're more relaxed.'' Contact: letters Published: Tuesday, August 8, 2000Copyright  2000, The Columbus Dispatch CannabisNews Drug Testing Archives:
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Comment #4 posted by Info on August 09, 2000 at 12:00:32 PT
Most life insurance companies already require testing for cotinine (a metabolite of nicotine), through use of saliva or blood testing. Some health insurance companies do, too. Next time you take a test for an insurance policy, look closely at the forms. Just FYI.
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on August 09, 2000 at 05:08:00 PT:
Getting closer to where they live.
Here's something interesting: a test that determines if *nicotine* is present in the body. Very interesting.Why? For this reason: for too long, those who have supported the WoSD have done so with the proceeds of the sale of their *legal* drugs. I don't know how much Phillip-Morris spends on the PFDFA, but I imagine that the PFDFA get *something* from them. And how many PFDFA members have to adjourn their meetings to go outside for a requisite hit from their addiction-of-choice?And yet these types swear up and down that they are not using a drug, and that they are not drug addicts. They have been allowed to continue this cultural cognitive dissonance for decades, in spite of all the studies and recent revelations of tobacco company executives. Revelations that prove beyond a doubt that, Yes, Virginia, nicotine *really* is a drug.A drug that kids are now being tested for. A drug that is slowly being lumped into the rest of illicit substances these tests are designed to discover.Some of you might be saying, "Big deal!" Well, yes it is. Because now, INSURANCE COMPANIES MIGHT NOW START DEMANDING PISS TESTS TO DETERMINE IF YOU ARE A SMOKER. No more BSing someone into giving you a policy while hiding that dangerous habit. And that's just the beginning; what happens if your continued *employment* is dependant on remaining smoke-free? Smokers may soon learn to their sorrow what many of us have known for years: the tyranny of a governmentally sponsored, commercially mandated lifestyle that better serves Korporate Amerika rather than the individual rights and liberties of a people. We are witnessing a very big turn of the screw. For years, many parents who smoke tobacco (and demand their children *don't*, of course) have supported the WoSD. They did so because of a misplaced sense of moral superiority; *they* aren't drug users, oh no! But now there is as drug test that includes their addictive 'non-drug' drug. And how long before this test is used against all adults? How long before *everyone* has to PITB to prove their allegiance to the now *all* Drug Free lifestyle? Tobacco smokers, welcome to the same boat us cannabis users have been in for decades. A boat you helped put us in with your blind sheep-bleating of the antis' party line. You're about to find out that tyranny recognizes no middle ground; you either 'tote that barge' or 'lift that bale' - or you are holding the whip. 
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Comment #2 posted by MikeEEEEE on August 08, 2000 at 18:14:26 PT
Wrong Approach
Freedom Fighter, I find that when kids aren't trusted they sometimes rebell against authority. The drug warriors always use the wrong approach.
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Comment #1 posted by freedom fighter on August 08, 2000 at 13:16:47 PT
What better reason not to give test?
Rogers, who opposes random drug testing, said, "Kids know what drugs show up on urine screens. So kids won't smoke marijuana during the football season. They'll use something else.'' I have a friend who just got out of jail. He spent 45 days in jail all pi**ed off. They told him that if they caught him doing marj. again he will have to spend another two years in jail. He has one year of pi** tests and he told me he would not smoke marj anymore. Right now, his choice of drug is ecstasy and cigarettes. This is the first reason why drug tests do not work.The second reason would be the fact my friend told me that after he finished serving his time with drug testing, he is gonna smoke pot again.The third reason would be the fact that random drug testing only tells children that we do not trust them.These same children will grow up big one day and vote a law requiring everyone to do drug tests every week.If a person is randomly select for the test, are we randomly saying that he/she is guilty? 
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