Leadership: Stoned Sailors Threaten Fleet Safety


May 16, 2009: The U.S. military has been very successful in suppressing the use of illegal drugs. The U.S. Navy had the biggest problem, since sailors at sea have no access to alcoholic beverages and it gets pretty boring out there. So the navy worked hard to discourage drug use. In 2001 the navy conducted 450,000 random drug tests, 515,000 in 2002, and 577,000 through March 31 of 2003. The number of tests that came back positive, however, continued to decline. In 2001, there were 7.72 positives per thousand tests. In 2002, there were 6.27, and through the end of March of 2003, only 4.72. Many of those caught with a positive test can be rehabilitated. The navy is particularly concerned about drug use aboard ships, where many sailors operate and maintain equipment that could cause disastrous accidents if mistakes are made.

These random urine tests no longer work as well as they used. That's because, over the last few years, an increasing number of test defeating products have appeared on the market. The navy has responded by prohibiting sailors from possessing any of these test defeating products. If this doesn't reduce the cheating sufficiently, the navy may have to go to hair tests. Drug traces remain in hair for about 90 days, but it is more time consuming and expensive to test hair.





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