Drug Demand Reduction: where a "positive" has negative consequences

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mike Tryon
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
"Hello, Airman Snuffy, this is Sergeant Smith from the 123rd Wing headquarters building. You need to report here right away with your Common Access Card."

That phone conversation is similar to one many Airman assigned to the 90th Missile Wing have heard at one time or another during their tenure here, and it could signify to Airman Snuffy that he has been randomly selected for a urinalysis as part of the Drug Demand Reduction program.

"The goal of the DDR program is to prevent illicit drug use by active-duty members, Department of Defense employees, DoD family members and other personnel supported by hosttenant agreements through drug testing, and outreach and education programs," said Rex Metcalf, 90th Medical Support Squadron DDR program manager.

This is done by randomly testing both military and civilians in designated testing positions, unit sweeps, civilian pre-employment screens and drug prevention briefings, he added.

Random selection for a urinalysis occurs daily, except during unit sweeps, Metcalf said.

The randomization of those selected is done two ways: the use of "smart testing" -- which is a random selection of all airmen basic through senior airmen and all lieutenants at the rate of one test per member per year -- and with the rest of the populous being selected at a rate of 65 percent tested per year.

"In more than 25 years of drug testing and prevention involvement, I've often heard complaints about being 'targeted' for testing," Metcalf said. "People are confusing random for fairness.

A 'random' selection process is not necessarily equitable in terms of number of times folks are selected; some are selected more often, some less.

"There can be no definable pattern to the random selection process. You just never know when your name will pop-up to testing, thus providing a good deterrence to drug abuse," he added.

After the sample is collected here, the DDR staff members must ship it to the Air Force Drug Testing Lab at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, within two duty days. There the sample will undergo several layers of testing. The results of the extensive testing take about 10 to 14 days to get back to the base of origin.

"All specimens are handled and packaged following strict 'chain of custody' guidelines to ensure specimen integrity," Metcalf said.

With the recent legalization of marijuana use in Colorado, some Airmen might ask themselves, "Rex, if I'm down in Colorado with a group of people at a party and they all start smoking marijuana and I end up 'hot-boxed,' am I'm going to pop positive on a test?"

The short answer is no, Metcalf said. The DoD has established cut-off testing levels to exclude such events. A positive result is the direct reflection of one using an illicit drug. However, the best advice would be to avoid that situation in the first place.

During fiscal year 2012, the DDR program collected and shipped almost 5,000 specimens -- both military and civilian -- without error, due largely in part to Metcalf and the Drug Testing Program administrative manager, 2nd Lt. Yousif Nash, 90th MDSS.

A person's professionalism and integrity are vital to overseeing the DDR program.

"The reason those traits are vital to the program is because a positive urinalysis could result in a court martial," Metcalf said. "Because of that, Nash's and my character must be flawless."

Program managers are usually folks who have vast experience in the drug prevention and testing field, Metcalf explained. Prior to becoming the program manager here, Metcalf said he was a lab technician for 20 years in the military and spent 14 years as the Drug Testing Program administrative manager.