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Drug Testing News

Fewer sailors testing positive for drugs, Navy says

By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Thursday, May 15, 2003

ARLINGTON, Va. — The number of sailors testing positive for illegal drugs has steadily declined over the past three years, even as more random drug tests are being done, officials said.

The number of random urine tests done Navywide in the first half of each of the last three fiscal years has risen, according to information from the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Program.

In the first half of fiscal 2001, of the 449,926 tests performed, 3,472 sailors tested positive. In fiscal 2002, 515,308 tests were done, and 3,231 sailors tested positive. In fiscal 2003, 577,032 tests were done and 2,722 sailors tested positive.

In June, the Navy was the leader in using a new drug test to better detect the use of the club drug best known as Ecstasy — a hallucinogen that, though not the most popular drug among military users, was gaining in popularity much faster than any other illicit drug.

In 2000, Ecstasy’s popularity surpassed heroin, PCP and LSD, because it quickly passes through the body and was not detectable by some tests, according to previously published records.

However, Ecstasy is not the drug of choice in the armed forces, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Rivers Johnson said.

Last year, about 68 percent of all drug-positive personnel used marijuana, compared to about 7.6 percent who tested positive for Ecstasy, he said.

But Ecstasy wasn’t easily detected, especially when several days had passed after use, officials said.

To better detect the drug, the Defense Department and all services except the Air Force, began using the new method, Johnson said.

All active-duty personnel are subject to a random urinalysis.

A computer generates a list of randomly selected names, the tests are done with witnesses present and results returned to commands within 10 to 21 days.

Generally, a sailor found to be using illegal drugs must go through administrative separation processing, though members diagnosed as drug-dependent will be offered treatment before separation.

Disciplinary action ranges from administrative punishment to court martial proceedings.

“Our prevention triad of leadership awareness, random urinalysis and prevention education has proven very effective,” Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Adm. Gerry Hoewing, said in a written statement.

The Navy Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention program lists the following as the target population at risk of drug and alcohol abuse:

E-3 and below
Between the ages of 19 and 22
Has 2½ years of service
Average of 14 to 24 months at first duty station
Nonwarfare qualified
Not enrolled in any off-duty education
Never attended program called “Personal Responsibility and Values: Education & Training.”