News: Members suspected of Spice use to be tested
Story by Cpl. Eric Quintanilla
SAN DIEGO — The Department of the Navy has announced the availability of drug testing that is able to detect a variety of synthetic drugs which were previously untraceable.
Throughout the military, an increasing number of service members have been using synthetic substances which produce a marijuana-like high, and were not previously detectable through routine urinalysis. Synthetic substances are sold under various names such as Spice, bath salts and jewelry cleaner to avoid detection.
For now, only service members suspected of using synthetic substances will undergo the urinalysis. The Department of the Navy is currently researching ways to integrate the test and include as many Marines and sailors as possible.
“The test is now available, but not every sample is tested for it,” said Mangual. “Now we know what chemicals to test for, so we can look for it.”
The Marine Corps has a zero-tolerance policy concerning illegal drug use. Currently only a few Naval screening labs are able to evaluate samples for synthetic drugs, explained Frank Chavez, drug demand reduction coordinator, SACO.
Synthetic drugs are made using a combination of chemicals coated on organic leaves. Some people are also experimenting with various methods of ingesting, such as smoking or snorting, which can change or increase the drug’s effects.
However, there is currently no system in place to regulate chemicals used in many of these substances, so these drugs can often times prove to be more dangerous. Different chemical components or amounts of chemicals can lead to unpredictable effects.
“Would anybody want someone who is using a psychological drug in combat with them? I don’t think so,” said Doug Flowers, substance abuse counselor, substance abuse counseling center. “I think you want to be able to depend on the guy who has your back. I don’t think anybody would want to have someone under the influence of any substance when they are in that kind of situation.”
An increasing number of service members have been admitted to the hospital for mental health issues caused by of synthetic drugs, making the need for a test that detects usage even greater, according to George Mangual, director, SACO. Currently routine urinalysis testing doesn’t screen for synthetic drugs, however, that is the ultimate goal, he added.
If a urinalysis test comes back positive they are automatically required to be seen not only by a substance abuse counselor but must also be evaluated by a medical officer, who are both looking at the substance abuse history and the presenting issue, explained Flowers.
“They are going to be evaluated by a medical officer, who is going to determine if it’s abuse or they’re dependent,” said Flowers. “The (commanding officer) is going to determine if it was actual misuse and possibility of (administrative) separation, due to misuse of illegal or legal drugs.”
The Drug Enforcement Agency banned many substances found in synthetic drugs, making use or possession of it illegal under federal law, as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Naval Administrative Message 082/12 also states, “Engaged leadership and education of our force on the dangers of synthetic compound abuse and our zero tolerance policy is paramount. It is incumbent upon us to ensure our people know the risks these drugs present to their health, career and to their family.”