Archive for the ‘drug testing’ Tag

What do you like more: your drugs or your genitals?

Monday, January 13th, 2014

I know some of you probably think I was scare-mongering when I wrote Maurice the Feline, and I know there are many MCat users out there who take the drug without more than mild side-effects – but spare a thought for the poor sod who apparently came back from university for Christmas, took mephedrone, then stabbed his mother and cut off his own penis.

The story sounds bizarre, but national newspapers ran it and I can’t find anything disproving it. And I can’t say, in the time I have been working with mephedrone users, that it comes as a huge surprise to me. Despite some young MCat users responding with claims that “there’s no way MCat could do that”, I have seen the scary impact the drug can have on the mind. A serious psychotic episode, with no previous mental health history, is something I have unfortunately witnessed more than once – and that’s only from the cohort of people who come to the attention of drug services. I would imagine, behind closed doors, there are many people suffering from from paranoid and suicidal thoughts, and all the horrifying and damaging behaviours that come alongside them.

I am doing my best to set up some testing facilities – because, at the end of the day, no-one currently knows what they are taking. At least if you know something has not sent you crazy once, you have a greater chance of avoiding a negative experience thereafter. But please do not underestimate the potential this drug, or group of drugs, can have on your mental health. If you have any previous issues with your mental state, or any history of psychosis in your family, I would genuinely advise you to steer entirely clear – but, unfortunately, these factors are not strong enough indicators, in the case of this drug, that all will be well.

And as for the poor guy in the news – although I would not like having to heal the relationship with my mother after I’d tried to kill her, nor would I want to embark on a life with a mutilated, floppy todger, I would rather face either of these futures than live with paranoid psychosis. Let’s just hope he hasn’t triggered off something that lasts a lifetime.

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Random drug testing is ‘grievous and oppressive’

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Drug testing is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon in the UK, and is gaining popularity both in workplaces and criminal justice systems. Agreeing to random drug tests is often a contractual requirement – no drug tests, no job – and refusal to provide a specimen is considered tantamount to a positive result by Police, social workers and employers.

It is therefore extremely interesting to hear that this week, in Florida, a Supreme Court has ruled that in all but exceptional circumstances, drug testing without justifiable suspicion of drug use is unlawful, and is only legal if it protects public safety.

The ruling was made in relation those in receipt of state benefits for childcare, so, whilst not directly transferable to our own systems, it may have future relevance – given that drug testing benefit claimants in the UK has already been mentioned in the Government’s recent poor-bashing campaign (scapegoating benefit claimants for bankers’ fuck-ups), and is only one step further than setting Jobcentre staff targets to stop payments, and making systems inaccessible so as to exclude more vulnerable recipients.

But the reasons for the ruling are very relevant here in the UK. In the first part, political attempts to align the poor with illegal drug use were thwarted when the court case revealed that only 2.6% of child benefit recipients tested had provided a positive sample. This percentage of illicit drug use was lower than in the general population.

Even more poignant were the legal challenges to random drug testing brought forward by the case, which was filed by a Navy veteran-turned-student whilst single-handedly caring for a disabled mother and young son. He refused a drugs test given there was no reasonable suspicion of drug use, and as a result had his claim for public assistance turned down. He won the case on the grounds that random drug testing is “unconstitutional”.

The judge deemed mandatory random testing outside the law because, under the Fourth Amendment of US Constitution, drug tests are classed as a search, and as such can only take place in response to suspicion that a crime has been committed. This law was introduced in 1700s when British search warrants enabled the colonists to enter and seize property at will. Fury at this lawful breach of human rights was thought to have started the Amercian Revolution. The resulting Declaration of Rights clearly stated that any searches on a person “whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted”.

How incredibly refreshing. Especially at a time when, in the UK, choices we make outside of work, which have no impact on our professional functioning, can mean we lose our jobs; or when a substance we used days ago, which has no effect on our ability to drive safely now, can mean we lose our driving license. Cannabis, a drug with a very weak relationship to social harm which is now legal in parts of America, can show up in urine tests for up to four weeks. Yet what, over such timescales, is the relationship to reduced ability or function, either in the workplace or behind the wheel?

I am sure that, forty years ago, employers felt that had a right to know the sexuality of their employees. Their choice not to employ homosexuals would have been supported by the authorities, despite this lifestyle choice having no impact on their professional capacity or any relevance in the workplace.

I hope this week’s ruling is the start of a thought revolution on the issue of drug use. What a person chooses to do behind closed doors should be private, unless this choice poses a risk to the other people. So in the case of drug use, unless an employer can evidence reduced productivity or increased risk as a result of suspected substance use, drug tests should not be carried out. Most employers condone, even support, the use of alcohol outside of work, despite use of this substance being well-documented to increase risk when operating machinery – the difference in the handling of the use of other drugs outside of work can therefore not be justifiably linked to risk.

This case is a reminder that we have human rights, a fact which seems to have been lost in this country where drug use is concerned. It is possession, not use, of a drug that is illegal. We cannot be arrested for having a drug in our system – yet we can lose our livelihood, without putting a foot wrong. That certainly strikes me as grievous and oppressive.

Does MCat show up on a drugs test?

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

The main question that brings strangers to my blog is – does MCat show up on drug tests? I’m going to address this to the best of knowledge now, and if anyone has anything to add or knows any different, please leave a comment to inform others. There are some resources at the bottom for people wanting more information.

MCat, or mephedrone, is so called because of its chemical compound, 4-methylmethcathinone. It is just a happy coincidence that it smells like cat urine, hence sometimes being know as meow meow. Also known as mephedrone, it was originally marketed as plant food or bath salts so people could buy it without being detected, although it was never intended to be used as such. It seems to be able to be used as safely as other illicit drugs such as ecstacy. However, long-term effects are unknown, risks dramatically increased when used with other drugs, and I can say from my experience as a drugs worker that it can also be significantly, rapidly harmful to users’ mental health. It has also been described to me by more than one seasoned drug user as “more addictive than crack”. There have been various deaths linked to the drug.

In terms of drug testing, it IS now possible to test for mephedrone. It does, of course, depend on what you have actually taken – if you have bought it from a street dealer, it could be anything, and even substances bought via the Internet are not being monitored by Trading Standards and so might not be what you think you were buying. I have had loads of people tell me they have taken MCat, with widely-varying reports of the effects, and then test positive for amphetamine or methamphetamine, which have different chemical structures. I have even found a website which claims it can test for mephedrone using its methamphetamine testing kit (although I seriously doubt the validity of this). So be aware that, whatever you think you have taken, you could still flunk a drugs test.

In short, if you are being tested by your employer, it is possible that you could fail a drugs test after taking MCat. Basic testing windows for other stimulants (cocaine, amphetamine) are around two days in the bloodstream and five days in urine, so if you haven’t used any for a week you should be clear.

However, most standard workplace drug tests still do not test for MCat. It is, of course, possible that your employer is clued-up and has bought separate MCat testing kits, or has the samples sent off to the lab for detailed testing – and an article in the Welsh press this morning highlights that employers are becoming more aware of their staff using MCat – but the testing options are expensive, and my guess is your employer is just following their drugs and alcohol policy and covering their own backsides. Some drug services do now test for mephedrone, but some don’t.

If the test is via an oral swab (where a stick with cotton wool on is pressed against your gum or cheek for two minutes) then it is possible but unlikely to test for mephedrone, as, as far as I can gather, this test is only available via confirmation test (which costs about £30 per substance). Even if the lab did look for mephedrone, only the specific and original chemical compound would be detected. So in the case that the substance being used was some derivative of the original compound (such as any of those which flooded the market when mephedrone was made illegal to skirt legislation), then even if the sample was tested for MCat, it would still give a negative result. It is also possible to test for cathinone (khat), and given that mephedrone is a synthetic cathinone I thought this might also give a positive result for MCat, but on speaking to the lab this seems unlikely, as again the test only detects the specific chemical compound.

So if your employer or drugs worker is using oral fluid testing, it is unlikely but not impossible that you will give a positive result, unless they are willing to spend the money (for example, if they are testing as part of a court order). I’m not totally sure on testing windows for MCat, but given its short action and its similarity to amphetamine and other stimulants, I would hazard a guess that it only remains in the bloodstream (and so would be detectable through oral fluid testing) for a couple of days.

In terms of urine testing, again it is possible but not likely that employers will test for mephedrone. The mainstream-marketed dip-test strips or urine pots available for bulk-buying via the Internet do not test for MCat. Again, your employer could be on-the-ball, so there’s no way of ruling it out. Drugs will show up much longer in your urine than in your bloodstream, so if you have used MCat at the weekend it will probably still be present in your urine throughout your working week.

A good idea might be to get hold of your employer’s drugs and alcohol policy, and to look at your contract to see whether testing is mandatory. If possible, also find out what method of testing is used, and possibly even the company that provide the testing. (Oral swabs or urine pots will have the name of the company displayed on the side.) You can then look on the company’s website, or ring them, and ask whether they test for mephedrone and synthetic cathinones.

And if you interested in purchasing MCat drug tests, follow this link to my more recent post, MCat Testing.

For more information about MCat, it might be worth having a look at these resources:

– An excellent documentary called Legally High looks at new psychoactive substances, where they come from, the problems with legislating them, and the spectrum of drug use per se.

– Really interesting Wiki page about MCat, which charts its history, its researched neurochemical effects, and seems to me to under-report the negative effects and risks.

Frank’s generic drugs advice that slants to the negative, but also has links to help and support.

European Monitoring Centre For Drugs’ drug profile for synthetic cathinones, including mephedrone.

– My somewhat hopeless rant about my own experiences working with MCat users as a drugs worker – lets call it an industry insight.

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