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USA: Drug Testing Slows Methamphetamine Use

Goldie

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NEW YORK - Employers are catching more workers using methamphetamine, but the drug's spread into the workplace appears to have slowed considerably, a new study finds.

Employers who screen job applicants and workers for drugs saw the number testing positive for amphetamines increase by 6 percent last year. Positive tests for methamphetamine, one of two stimulants in that class of drugs, increased by 3 percent, according to a report to be released Monday by Quest Diagnostics Inc., one of the country's largest drug screening firms.

The figures are based on the results of 7.2 million workplace drug tests conducted in 2004 by Teterboro, N.J.-based Quest.

"The use of amphetamines among workers continued to grow," said Barry Sample, director of science and technology for the company's workplace testing business. "However amphetamines use among workers grew at a slower pace, when compared to previous years."

The limited increases contrasts sharply with 2003, when the number of workers testing positive for all amphetamines surged 44 percent and those failing the test for methamphetamine jumped 68 percent.

The number of workers testing positive for all amphetamines rose by 16 percent in 2001 and 17 percent in 2002.

The much smaller increases in workers failing tests for amphetamines last year came as the number of workers testing positive for all drugs was unchanged at 4.5 percent. The percentage of workers testing positive for drugs other than amphetamines also remained steady.

Of workers who tested positive, 55 percent failed the screening for marijuana, 15 percent for cocaine and 10 percent for amphetamines.

The popularity of methamphetamine has surged in recent years, prompting many states to try to limit the sales of the decongestant pseudoephedrine that is commonly used to make it. The spread of the crystalline stimulant, relatively easy to make, has been spurred in part by the growth of small, home laboratories.

Drug enforcement officials have continued working to shut down labs. The Drug Enforcement Administration seized 9,655 labs last year, down from 10,280 in the previous year. The agency has shuttered an additional 1,827 labs through the first 4 1/2 months of this year.

At the same time, more people appear to be seeking treatment for addiction to methamphetamine. In 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available, admissions to drug treatment centers for methamphetamine and amphetamine abuse rose to 52 of every 100,000 patients over 12 years old, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

That is up from 10 admissions per 100,000 patients in 1992.

But even as officials have worked to crack down on the manufacture and sale of the drug and encourage treatment, drug users have proven persistently creative at cheating on workplace tests. Such cheating will be the topic Tuesday of a hearing by a House of Representatives subcommittee.

"It's just a little too soon for us to know what it (the workplace testing data) means," said Leah Young, a spokeswoman for SAMHSA.

The agency's own survey on methamphetamine usage shows little change when last compiled for 2003, with 5.7 percent of people older than 26 saying they had used the drug, the same as in the previous year.
 

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