Saturday, May 06, 2006

Urine the Navy Now or Not

I start a new job on Monday and went for an employer drug screening last week. No big deal, but it brought back memories of random drug tests in the Navy. I must have filled a 55 gallon drum with piss during my service. OK maybe closer to 5 gallons but we were still tested a lot back in the 1980’s, at least once a month when not on patrol and sometimes even then if patrol included a rare liberty port call.

The random testing usually went like this. Show up for muster one morning and everyone whose service number ended with some "“randomly selected"” set of numbers would be tested, both Officer and Enlisted. Although, sometimes random meant the whole crew was tested. The ship's Corpsman, some poor JO and an unlucky Chief would get the pee watch. If you were to be tested, but didn'’t have to go, you drank water until you did. Then in a carefully orchestrated dance of paperwork and head calls the deed was done. List your over the counter meds, sample signed and witnessed and off to the lab it went.

Some sailors complained that the tests were inaccurate and you could get "popped on the piss test" by a false positive. I remember lots of rumors like don't eat poppy seed muffins, take certain over the counter meds or attend music venues where you can'’t see the stage due to the smoke. But in reality you were safe if you didn'’t do drugs.

Getting busted meant Captain'’s Mast, loss of at least one pay grade, forfeiture of some remaining pay and of course banned from submarine duty. It was off to skimmer world for the pot head, usually with someone commenting, "“Seaman Jones will be peeling potatoes on an oiler out of Adak in two weeks"”. A second offence on skimmers meant a dishonorable discharge and you could never get a security clearance, work for a defense contractor or the federal government. Although, sometimes the dishonorable could revert to a general discharge if the offending sailor had an otherwise clean record.

I saw some mediocre sailors go the way of urinalysis positives and some good sailors as well. But I could never understand why after working through sub school, pipeline schools, making rate and qualifying in submarines, someone could be so stupid. Literally they pissed all that work away, it made no sense. Maybe it was a cultural leftover from that whole me generation peace love hippy drug culture thing that happened in the late 60s early 70’s I don'’t know.

On the positive side, during my service in the Navy I saw a steady decline in people coming up positive on the urinalysis to the point where it seemed extremely rare. That trend of declining use continued for 20 years from 1981 when testing started until about 2000 when drug use detected through testing started to again increase. I couldn'’t find any recent data so I don'’t know if any increased testing stopped or reversed the increases in drug use reported between 2000 and 2002. I also don't know if the stats were different for the submarine community, I think we were one of the first to be tested routinely.

Marijuana was the problem in 1980s but from the list of news on this site Ecstasy seems to be the big concern today.

Some people say it'’s somewhat degrading to submit to a drug urinalysis test, but so is taking off your shoes and opening your bags for the passenger screening of a commercial flight. After all we all can'’t be privileged U.S. Congressmen.

1 comment:

submandave said...

Had an MT get popped for coke one Monday. He'd been at his dad's B-Day party Saturday night and while he stuck to his story that "someone must have slipped it to me" I figure he knew coke got processed out of your system pretty fast and bet on not having to contribute too soon, a bet he obviously lost.

As the old "contact high" at teh concert excuse, I remember reading a study BUMED actually did where they determined that it required continuous exposure to pot smoke in an unventilated 10x10 room for something like six hours to be detectible by urinalysis. Always wondered who got to choose the test subjects.