Issue Date: November 3, 2008
"TO CATCH A CHEAT" by Melody Voith was very interesting (C&EN, Sept. 8, page 23). My experience with drug testing involved the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Fitness for Duty program. I was the technical specialist on the auditing team at Gasser Associates, a nuclear energy consulting group now known as Fire Prevention Inc. The team would audit the laboratories that did the alcohol and drug abuse testing for employees at nuclear facilities.
As the technical specialist, I would audit the site where the urine specimens were collected and follow through the chain of custody to the laboratory. There, I would audit the laboratory testing procedures. The specimen was tested by gas chromatography. If the test was negative, the person was cleared. If it tested positive, the specimen was then tested by mass spectrometry. If the specimen tested positive by MS, the employee would then be sent to the medical review officer (MRO). I would also audit the duties of the MRO. The Fitness for Duty program was carried out in compliance with federal law.
My experience along these lines showed that testing at laboratories for nuclear personnel was rigidly controlled. The laboratory would take every possible precaution to see that a drug user would not get past the controls set up by the laboratory.
An abuser will try any means to beat the system, but again, my experience has shown that the laboratories took every precaution they could to avoid this.
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