Wednesday, December 20, 2006


There was another article about our school drug test in Illinois today. You can read the article by clicking the link here.

A few things came to mind as I read the article.

One is that we have a lot of respect for the work that drug dogs and their handlers do. It is truly amazing what these dogs are capable of doing. I hope the article and its focus on the comments of former Lebanon canine patrolman J.D. Beil don’t give anyone the impression that we think the drug dogs are useless. I'm sorry if that's how Patrolman Beil feels, but nothing could be further from the truth.

We are in favor of using whatever tools a school (or parent or business) has at its disposal to detect and deter drug abuse. Especially when it is in teenagers. There are plenty of options out there. Some schools use drug dogs, some schools do random urine testing, some schools sponsor drug education and prevention programs, some schools use DrugWipe, and some schools use a combination of these methods.

We obviously believe there are advantages to using DrugWipe. However, this is not a one or the other, us vs. them situation. It’s about using the available resources effectively to catch drug problems in our youth as early as possible so they get the help they need to lead full, productive lives.

I'd also like to address the comment about finding traces of drugs on paper currency taken out of the wallets of school board members. I think it leaves the impression that DrugWipe is so sensitive that it can detect residue on paper currency, thus can provide misleading results. That’s not the case.

When the technology was originally developed, it was sensitive enough to detect the miniscule amounts of drugs on paper currency. But the manufacturer realized that this would cause problems, including false positives. To avoid this issue of “background contamination”, the manufacturer bumped up the sensitivity of DrugWipe to the nanogram level - one billionth of a gram. At this level DrugWipe is finding narcotic residue from those who are actively engaged in the use or trafficking of illegal drugs. So while a $20 bill that was recently used by someone to snort a line of cocaine would most likely test positive with DrugWipe, the vast majority of bills in circulation would not!

Lastly, to me, the most positive part of the article was the statement that there has “been much talk around town” about our surface assessment at Lebanon High School. That’s awesome. The more people talk about drugs and drug abuse (especially when it’s between parents and their kids), the better. There's a statistic that indicates that talking to your teen on a regular basis about the dangers of drugs cuts their likelihood of using drugs by 42%.

So, please, whether you’re in Lebanon or anywhere else, keep talking!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How To Cook Cocaine

The other week, I posted a fascinating video about how cocaine is made. This is another video that picks up the process from where the other one left off. Amazing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


In this interesting article from November 2004 Inc. Magazine author and serial entrepreneur Norm Brodsky talks about his experiences in establishing a drug testing policy in one of his companies.

I can talk and talk about the negative effects of drugs in the workplace and the positive effects that drug testing has until I'm red in the face. Sometimes it's more effective to let others do your talking for you and Mr. Brodsky does that quite nicely in this article. When it comes to implementing an effective drug testing policy, many business owners are afraid of the costs of the program, the legal issues, having to fire employees, and other factors. Mr. Brodsky was too. But he went forward with drug testing anyway and here's an excerpt of what the result was:

Although we offered the others drug treatment and a chance to reapply for a job, we got no takers. Overall, we wound up losing about 25% of our work force -- fewer than we'd feared, but a significant number nonetheless.

Yet the drug testing did work. The accident rate declined, as did the incidence of petty theft. Even more gratifying was the response of the employees who remained: They thanked us. They said they felt safer. Only then did I begin to appreciate the real importance of having a drug-free company. It wasn't just about reducing our liability, or even keeping someone from getting hurt, as much as we wanted to do both. It was also about creating a better working environment for the other employees, the ones on whom we depend most heavily, the people we absolutely must figure out how to keep.

And on top of that, we got a bonus. Our drug-testing program made us more attractive to insurers, allowing us to move our policies to a better provider. Over time, moreover, a lower accident rate would translate into lower workers' comp costs.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

National Meth Awareness Day

Today is National Meth Awareness Day. It's no cause for celebration, though. The idea is to put a spotlight on the terrible meth epidemic we have in our country. Here's a link to some background information.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


We've been getting a lot of positive feedback about the media coverage yesterday and today for our narcotics assessment at Lebanon High School. We've also been hearing a lot of positive remarks about the school for taking the initiative to do something about teenage drug use.

One question we have come up again and again is "What's the point of a surface assessment?" We're testing property and not people. We're testing blocks of lockers and don't know how many lockers in each block may have narcotic residue on them. Even if we narrow things down to one locker, it might not be the student who's assigned to the locker that's responsible for the drug residue.

Yes, this is all true. To understand the importance and value of a surface assessment, you need to take a step back.

Most of us think of drug testing in the traditional sense - you go pee in a cup, give a blood sample, or have some hair clipped. A lot of this is done in a random fashion which, by definition, is a pretty inefficient way of approaching things. It takes a big investment of time and money to design and implement a drug testing program, whether it's in a school or an business setting. And you're doing all this for a problem that the statistics show only affects a relatively small percentage of your workforce or student population.

But what if there was a way, before all that happens, to assess what drug problems are really present in the school or business? Would it be helpful to know that there is little to no drug use by freshman but cocaine is prevalent by senior year? Would it be helpful to know that there's no evidence of drug activity in your warehouse, but your trucks are contaminated by residue from meth and marijuana? Would it be helpful to know that while your drug education program is telling students not to smoke pot, they are actually more into heroin?

That's the information DrugWipe provides. It says instead of taking a cookie cutter approach to drug testing, drug education, drug prevention, etc., find out what specific problems you have in your facility. That way you can develop a plan to effectively address the areas of greatest concern.

As a friend put it to me the other day, "If you don't know what you're up against, how can you stop it?"
Lebanon High School Assessment

Yesterday, an assessment we performed at Lebanon High School was covered by all local news stations (here's a link to a clip from KSDK) and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. After trying to get media coverage here locally for over a year, it was really something to have all the local stations and the Post show up at the same time! We're still trying to digest it all, but I have some thoughts on the assessment.

1. Thanks. First, we want to express our appreciation and thanks to the Lebanon School District and Superintendent Harry Cavanaugh for allowing the media to cover the assessment at their school. We'd also like to thank the members of the media for coming out to cover the story and put some attention on the problem of drug use by teens.

2. Courage. There's a lot of denial about drug problems out there and the Lebanon School District was willing to not only take the step to learn about what types of problems they have but to share it with the media. That takes a lot of courage.

3. Common. I wish I could say the results were unexpected. Some people might hear the media report that 8 out of the 17 DrugWipes used tested positive for drugs and be shocked. The results are neither surprising nor uncommon. Unfortunately, we would be hard pressed to go into a school in this country and not find evidence of drug use or trafficking. There is no reason to believe, based on these initial results, that the Lebanon School District has any larger or smaller drug problem than any other school district in the country.

4. Denial. Many school districts would rather just look the other way when it comes to drugs. Administrators and parents would like to believe it's not a problem in their community or with their children. Unfortunately, the problem only gets attention when something bad happens such as the drug bust at Lutheran South here in St. Louis earlier this year or the murder of the Lindbergh High School student by another student who reportedly was a known drug user. While these stories get the big headlines, this is a problem that is going on every day in most high schools (and many middle schools) across the country. Addressing drug use by teenagers is neither easy nor fun. But it is necessary. Most drug addictions start between the ages of 12 and 14. The earlier you can intervene, the better the chance of getting a child back on the right track. Denying that teens use drugs wastes precious time.

5. Reality. Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of surface assessments with DrugWipe is that it makes drug use "real". It takes it from the abstract to an in-your-face, here are the facts of the situation. The bottom line is, if you don't know a problem exists, how can you stop it? DrugWipe makes the problem "real" and lets school administrators and business owners acutely aware of what the problems are, and where they need to focus their attention to address the problem.

6. Focus. While we do not divulge the results of any surface assessments we perform, it was reported by the media that 8 of the 17 DrugWipes we used last night tested positive. This is baseline data that, in and of itself, does not mean much. We will be providing the Lebanon School District with a report soon that details our findings. This will let them see exactly what problems there are by grade level and by gender. This will help them focus their anti-drug efforts on the groups that need it most.

7. Exhaustion. Have you ever tried to do your job with journalists asking you questions, photographers snapping pictures, and video cameras rolling?! Let me tell you, it ain't easy! It was a long afternoon and the calls and emails have already started to come in. Though exhausted, I'm not complaining!

8. Hope. While the Lebanon School District was hoping the tests would reveal no indication of drug use by students, that unfortunately wasn't the case. They found out yesterday that, like most high schools, they do face some problems with student drug use. However, I am hopeful that with this information they will begin to develop a plan to address these issues and provide education, intervention, etc. for the students that need it. That's what this is all about. It's not to go on a witchhunt for students who are using or trafficking drugs and prosecute them. It's for assessing the facts of the situation and using whatever tools are available to help kids stay on the path to a bright, productive future. The fact that the Lebanon School District stepped up to the plate and is facing the issue of student drug use head on, makes me hopeful that's exactly what they are going to do for their students.

Monday, November 27, 2006

How cocaine is made

Most of us are concerned with the problems associated with drug use and trafficking in our businesses, homes and schools. We don't give much thought to where the drugs come from and how they are made.

This is a fascinating video that shows the process involved in making cocaine.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Right idea, bad execution

Lots of parents require their kids to do their homework as soon as they get home from school. Then they get a reward - watch TV, go play, etc. This mom in Pennsylvania has the right concept, though she didn't seem to think things all the way through. From ABC News . . .

"A woman admitted to smoking marijuana daily with her 13-year-old son to reward him for completing his homework. Amanda Lynn Livelsberger, 30, pleaded guilty to several charges Monday and will be sentenced Nov. 27.
Livelsberger, of Conewago Township, admitted in Adams County court that she had been smoking marijuana with her son since he was 11, and that she often gave it to him as a reward.

Get the complete story here

As an update, the mom was sentenced to three months in jail today. Here's the story from

We wish you all a very safe, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2006


Costa Rican authorities seized a "homemade" sub carrying over 3 tons of cocaine last Friday. The ingenuity of drug users and traffickers never ceases to amaze me.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Tipped off by three plastic pipes mysteriously skimming he ocean's surface, authorities seized a homemade submarine packed with 3 tons of cocaine off Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Four men traveled inside the 50-foot wood and fiberglass craft, breathing through the pipes. The craft sailed along at about 7 mph, just six feet beneath the surface, Security Minister Fernando Berrocal said Sunday.

Click here for the full article.


Most of us have heard stories about the ravages of methamphetamines. The paranoia and violent behavior of users. The dangers of mixing the toxic, volatile chemicals needed to make meth. Not many people, however, are aware of the terrible toll meth is taking on children in this country.

DFS workers across the country are being swamped by the effects of this drug. A large number of their caseloads involve children living with parents or caregivers who are abusing and/or manufacturing meth.

Here’s a story about a group, just over the river from us here in St. Louis, that is trying to do something to help these kids.

The Metro East Coalition Against Methamphetamine, or MECAM, is a band of local organizations with an interest in fighting meth production and use. Members of the coalition have worked together to prepare care-package backpacks for children who are found living in meth homes.

"The backpacks are just a small gesture to help the kids in already traumatic situations," said Tarra Winters, a prevention resource developer for Prevent Child Abuse Illinois. "When kids are found in these homes, everything in the house is contaminated. Many times, when they are removed, they aren’t able to take things with them."Winters, whose organization is a member of MECAM, said the backpacks contain new sets of clothes, a teddy bear, snacks, juice and other items, depending on the child’s age.

There are not many of us out there that would deny how awful this problem is for kids. However, most of us also think it’s probably something that’s terrible for the children of these meth addicts but won’t affect us much.

Well recently I was talking with a community pediatrician about the meth problem. She was telling me a story about one of her patients, an 11 month old girl, whose mother is grappling with an addication to meth. And while you may think that’s a terrible situation for the baby, the worst part of it is what the mom does for a living. She's a day care provider.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

“Catching the Stupid Drug Users”

Bill and I had a really enjoyable conversation today with a gentleman who oversees a number of construction sites that have multiple contractors/subcontractors on each site. Drug use is a great concern and the workers are all subjected to pre-employment tests, post-accident tests, random tests, for-cause tests, tests based on number of hours worked, etc. All the testing done is urine testing administered by a third party provider.

Even with all that drug testing, the feeling they have is that they are still “only catching the stupid drug users.” Now there is definitely a lot of merit to doing that. The “stupid" ones are probably the employees to be the most concerned about as far as accident risk, productivity loss, violent behavior, etc. But there a lot more drug users who escape under the radar. They know how to adulterate the urine samples, substitute samples (congratulations, sir, you passed your drug test but it turns out you’re pregnant), they time things so they know when to stop using drugs to avoid detection.

It seems like such an inefficient system. You’re spending all this money on drug testing, 90%+ of the people you are testing aren’t even on drugs, and you’re still missing some of the ones who are.

I’m not going to go off on a big sales pitch here, but doesn’t it make sense to have a system in place that can proactively and non-invasively determine if there is a problem and where those problems are? Then when you find evidence of drug use, focus your resources on areas where you know there’s a problem instead of trying to find that needle in the haystack. That’s the power of DrugWipe.

Friday, November 10, 2006


One of the most eye opening experiences we’ve had since starting IDS was doing an assessment for a school in the St. Louis region. The school’s administrators knew there was a problem with marijuana activity, but had no idea how big of a problem it was. They wanted to know exactly what was going on in the school and to do it as discreetly as possible. They decided DrugWipe was just what they were looking for so they could more effectively address drug issues in the school. The contract called for us to do an initial assessment and then have their staff members trained in using DrugWipe technology so they could conduct ongoing assessments as needed.

We conducted a general assessment, using 1 DrugWipe to sample 20 lockers at a time. We used 7 DrugWipes to sample 140 lockers used by 6th and 7th graders and 10 DrugWipes to sample 200 lockers used by 8th and 9th graders.

The Results

3 of the 7 DrugWipes we used on the 6th / 7th grade lockers and 5 of the 10 DrugWipes used on the 8th / 9th grade lockers turned up positive for marijuana. The real surprise was that 4 of the 7 DrugWipes used on the 6th / 7th grade lockers and 9 of the 10 used on the 8th / 9th grade lockers were positive for cocaine. (I’ve just thrown a lot of numbers out at you and want to be very clear about one thing. This does NOT mean that 90% of the 8th and 9th graders at this school were using cocaine. We sampled 20 lockers with each DrugWipe and only 1 of those 20 lockers would need to have cocaine residue on it for there to be a positive result.)

The most disturbing thing to me, however, was the school administration didn’t believe the results. They claimed that they didn’t have a problem with crack or cocaine in their community and the testing must be flawed. Concerned about that claim, I talked with a DEA agent that’s worked in the area for over 20 years while my partner talked with someone who has been involved in adolescent drug counseling and intervention in the area, also for over 20 years. Because we hold our clients’ confidentiality in the highest regard, we only indicated the general area where the school was located to these experts and asked them if they were surprised by the results. The DEA agent told me that “if you were surprised by the results, you should have talked to me first.” The drug counselor wasn’t surprised either.

After some further discussions with school administrators and a brief follow-up assessment to confirm our earlier findings, we sat down with the principal. We reiterated the fact that the government has tested DrugWipe and found it to be 100% accurate in their surface tests. We recounted the discussions we had with local experts and their thoughts on the situation. We then asked the principal if there was anything we could do to make them believe that these results were accurate. The principal said there wasn’t. At this point we told the principal that if the school administration didn’t believe in the technology there was no reason to proceed with the training and purchase of 50 DrugWipes that our original contract had called for. So we tore up the contract, shook hands, and parted ways.

We have encountered a lot of denial since starting Integrity Detection Systems last year. Parents who believe there is no way that their child could be involved in drugs. Company owners that risk the safety and lost profits associated with drug use in the workplace rather than implement an effective drug testing policy. Drug use tends to be a taboo subject and many people would rather just stick their heads in the sand instead of facing the facts and taking steps that could help turnaround and save lives. This case with the school was particularly disturbing because the results clearly indicated there is a large use and/or trafficking problem at this school and young children were involved in some way.

Drug use is a very serious problem and helping those with addiction problems is extremely difficult. I can understand how easy it could be to try and ignore the problem and hope it goes away on its own. However, it rarely does. Most addictions start between the ages of 12 and 14. The earlier you can intervene and help kids at that age stay away from drugs, the better chance they have of righting the ship and getting them back on the path to bright, productive futures.

While intervention doesn’t guarantee success in overcoming a drug problem, ignoring the problem is a guaranteed recipe for failure.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cocaine Comeback?

An interesting article from Medical News Today about a resurgence of cocaine use in Florida caught my attention. The article points to a study conducted by the University of Florida and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement which shows that the number of times cocaine has been cited as the cause of death in coroner’s reports has almost doubled between 2000 and 2005. The article surmises that this is likely indicative of a nationwide trend of increased cocaine use.

Unfortunately, I can't say this surprises us. In fact, a recent analysis of around 2000 DrugWipe surface assessments conducted over the past few years showed that cocaine showed up in 38% of the tests conducted. Now, first let me say that this does NOT indicate that 38% of the population is using cocaine. A DrugWipe can be used to test multiple surfaces so if you are testing 20 lockers in a school with one DrugWipe, just one of those lockers would have to have cocaine residue on it for the test to come back positive. Though on the flip side, you could test one forklift in a company that is shared by 5 or more employees who could all be using cocaine. The actual percentage of users is impossible to determine with surface assessments.

What is interesting from that analysis, however, is that there are more positive results for cocaine than any other drug, including marijuana. Why? I’m not really sure but here are a couple of theories that have been kicked around:

1. Traditional drug tests are biased toward marijuana users because
marijuana can be detected in the system for weeks after use as opposed to just
a day or two with “hard” drugs like cocaine. With the short detection
window for the “hard” drugs in urine tests, these tests may be missing a number
of cocaine users.

2. Cocaine is an “ideal” drug to use in a school or workplace setting. It’s easily transported, has no smell and can be easily snorted off the back of a toilet seat or other surface in a discreet location. Also the signs of someone that has been using cocaine are similar to someone who’s had a lot of caffeine so it may not be obvious if a student or employee is actively impaired on the drug.

One other point the article makes is that the prevalence of cocaine seems to be higher is wealthy neighborhoods and near college towns. That may be so, but I can tell you from personal experience, cocaine and crack (which is an inexpensive variation of cocaine) are everywhere. From inner-city neighborhoods to wealthy suburbs to places in-between, we’ve found contamination from cocaine residue during surface assessments. The most heart-breaking was finding it (in fairly high levles) on the lockers of 6th and 7th grade students in a school whose population would not be considered wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. But that's a story for another post.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Got D.O.T.?

This afternoon I was talking with the managers from a local company about drug testing. Most of the employees of this company are truck drivers who fall under the D.O.T. testing guidelines. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these, the Department of Transportation has guidelines requiring drug testing for drivers who operate a commercial vehicle in interstate or intrastate commerce. If you ever have trouble falling asleep, you can read all 103 pages of the guidelines here. I have made my way through the entire document, but it was quite a struggle. My favorite part was the one that describes what color the water in the toilet has to be in bathrooms where a DOT drug test is conducted (the answer is blue).

The purpose of these guidelines is admirable. The DOT wants to ensure drivers who operate large trucks and heavy machinery are not using drugs and therefore posing a safety risk to themselves, their coworkers, and the public. You don’t want to be driving down the interstate with 18 wheelers whose drivers are high on cocaine or smoking a joint!

However, the guidelines do have loopholes.

The biggest drawback is that most DOT drug testing is done on a random basis. This is not the most efficient way of drug testing, as I discussed in my last post. In the company I was talking to today, they said they’ve had employees who’ve been pulled for drug testing twice within 4 months while others who have not been pulled in 4 years. They don’t think it’s a particularly effective way of drug testing, and I don’t disagree.

Another big drawback to the DOT guidelines (and I’m admittedly biased) is that currently they only allow for urine testing. Urine may not be the best tool for a company to use for drug testing. It could be. But it also could be DrugWipe, PreScreen, hair testing, blood testing, saliva testing, or a combination of these. But companies don’t have the freedom to choose what they think works best for them to be compliant under the DOT requirements. They’re stuck with urine.

There are revised guidelines in the works that do include these other forms of testing. Earlier this year I was talking with a gentleman from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) in Washington DC and asked him when he thought these guidelines would become the law. He just kind of laughed and said when you have bureaucracy and lobbying efforts at work, it’s anyone’s guess.

Even though DrugWipe is not currently sanctioned under DOT guidelines, trucking companies, including one of the largest trucking firms in the nation, are turning to DrugWipe to fill in the gaps of the DOT drug testing programs. It provides companies, like the one I talked with today, a way to be proactive, establish reasonable cause for DOT urine testing, and more effectively mitigate their risks from drug using drivers.

Any type of testing, other than the DOT urine test, can be a tough sell in the transportation industry. Many trucking companies do the minimum testing required under the DOT guidelines. One main factor is cost. Another main factor is that currently there’s a big driver shortage in the industry. It’s very hard to replace drivers these days. If you have to let one go due to a drug problem (or any other reason, for that matter), the truck they were driving could be sitting idle on the lot for a while. That means lost revenue. Some companies would rather have those trucks on the road and take the chance that a drug using driver won’t get into a serious accident.

I hope the revised DOT guidelines will be enacted soon so transportation companies will be given the freedom to use the testing procedure(s) they think will provide them with the best results in the most cost-effective way possible.

Oh, one last thing – GO CARDINALS!!!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Is Drug Testing a Waste of Money?

Employers large and small together spend millions upon millions of dollars each year on their drug testing programs. Do the rewards justify the costs?

You could make a very good argument that, yes, they do. Drug activity in the workplace is a major drain on business. It affects productivity, insurance costs, workplace theft, safety, absenteeism and more (click here for some specifics). There are also negative affects on things that can’t be so easily measured such as worker morale, customer service, quality, and damage to a company’s reputation.

A well-crafted drug testing program provides a deterrent to drug use and does help reduce the amount of drug use in the workplace. It also helps employers find the employees who are using drugs and either get them help through some sort of an employee assistance program or get rid of them. Reducing and eliminating drugs from the workplace does make a difference. Many companies have seen great benefits from drug testing and there are studies showing how effective they can be.

However, even with a well-crafted, well-implemented drug testing program there is a tremendous amount of waste. With the traditional urine, hair, and blood testing you are testing a lot more people (through random tests and pre-employment screens) than need be. It's taking a needle in the haystack approach. Essentially you're doing something you don't need 90% of the time (since government statistics indicate about 10% of the workforce uses drugs). If only 10% of your workforce needed to wear hardhats, would you buy a hardhat for everyone in the company? Would you buy the right number of hardhats but then hand them out randomly hoping that the employees who need them, get them? No, of course not. That’s a big waste of time and money!

With DrugWipe, you are finding the people who are actively impaired on the job – not those who use drugs recreationally on the weekends. DrugWipe surface assessments lead you right to the people who have the most impact on your company’s safety, security, and bottom line profits. This way you're basically eliminating the waste of the traditional tests and focusing attention and resources on the problem, not just taking a stab in the dark. It simplifies the process and makes drug testing much more efficient.

How much money could you be wasting on your drug testing program?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Potato Test

I learned about this fascinating little tidbit while presenting at a meeting of the Methamphetamine Action Coalition (MAC) in Jefferson County a few months ago. Meth production is a huge problem in Jefferson County. It’s a largely rural county and two major interstates (I-55 and I-44) meet there, making it an ideal location for meth production and distribution. The MAC is a group of local agencies that's trying to educate the public about the hazards of meth and lower the rates of meth use in Jefferson County.

One of the other presenters that day was from the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Department. He talked about the “Potato Test” method of detecting meth production in a home, apartment, car, etc.

Here’s how the test works:

  1. Get a potato
  2. Cut it in half
  3. Wipe the inside of the potato on the wall or other solid surfaces
  4. Wait a few minutes
  5. If the potato turns blue, it indicates that meth contamination is present

When I heard this I thought that pretty much eliminated the need for DrugWipe for Meth Lab ID purposes (which was the whole reason I was invited to talk to this group in the first place!). But there is a caveat with the Potato Test.

There are two main techniques used to manufacture meth. One is the Nazi Method. This was developed in Germany during World War II and was given to Nazi troops as stimulants during the war (it was supposedly used by a few other countries as well). This method uses lithium and anhydrous ammonia to manufacture the meth. It is the method of manufacturing meth that produces the greatest odor.

The other method is the Red-P method. This method uses iodine and red phosphorus to make meth. This method produces the red stains on carpets and walls that are one of the key tell-tale signs of meth production.

The Potato Test will only work in identifying meth production involving the Red-P method. It's because of the iodine. Iodine gets absorbed into the walls during the Red-P production process. If a potato is rubbed against the wall, a reaction occurs with the iodine which turns the potato blue.

My understanding is that the Nazi and Red-P methods are both equally common, at least here in Missouri. By using the Potato Test, you run the risk of not detecting the presence of contamination from a meth lab about half the time.

So, as it turns out, we don’t have to worry about competition from potato farmers as we market DrugWipe as a way to identify meth production sites!

Shake and Bake

A lot of people I talk to assume that the signs that a home or apartment has been used in the production of meth are readily apparent. That’s not true.

Some of the signs of methamphetamine production are obvious:

  • Strong smells (similar to cat urine, ammonia)
  • Excessive trash that includes antifreeze containers, red stained coffee filters, and starter fluid cans
  • Windows blacked out and reinforced doors
  • Signs of trip wires, security cameras, or other booby traps that are set to alert the people making Meth that someone is approaching (meth users are HIGHLY paranoid)

There are a number of ways to manufacture meth that don’t leave behind these tell-tale signs. The most amazing, and scary, to me is the so-called Shake and Bake method.

Basically, all the ingredients needed to make Meth are dumped into a 2L soda bottle. Now keep in mind these are highly volatile, explosive materials being combined here! Once everything is dumped in the bottle the next step is to shake the bottle to mix all the ingredients, throw it, and RUN LIKE HELL! (It kind of sounds to me like holding a stick of dynamite in your hands and lighting the fuse. All in the name of getting high.) Within a few hours, chemistry works its wonder and you end up with the finished product.

That is, of course, as long as the whole thing doesn’t explode first.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Last Wednesday I was in Jefferson City addressing a meeting of the Missouri Housing Industry Alliance. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that having lived in Missouri for over 10 years now, this was my first trip to our state capitol.

I was invited to introduce the group to DrugWipe technology and talk about the issues of drugs in real estate. It was a great group and the presentation evolved into a lively discussion about DrugWipe, drug use/production in homes and apartments, and liabilities (gotta love the lawyers!).

When I first learned of DrugWipe, one of the first applications I thought of was for real estate. My family has always owned investment properties and I can remember going to visit building with my dad when I was younger and seeing crack pipes littering the sidewalks and alleys outside some buildings. And now living in Missouri, the Meth Lab capital of the United States, I’m acutely aware of the problems that drugs can pose to home owners, landlords, and tenants.


Most people don’t realize how toxic this stuff really is. The production of Meth creates a blizzard of toxic material that spreads into walls, carpeting, HVAC systems and more. The residue contaminates these surfaces for a long time and is very difficult to remove. Some buildings that have housed Meth labs are demolished because it would be too difficult and costly to clean up.

A story out of Texas really made the dangers of this stuff hit home with me. It’s about a DEA agent that was involved in raiding a meth lab. During the course of a day, his clothing got contaminated from being in the house that was raided. After work, he went home and played with his 6 week old child before changing his clothes and the child died from exposure to the toxic residue.

I’ve run into a lot of people over the past year who are quite concerned about Meth lab contamination. I remember talking to a police officer from Franklin County, Missouri that built a new home for his young family rather than buy an existing home because of fears over Meth contamination. I’ve talked to people in the medical profession who’ve had patients with “mystery illnesses” that turn out to be caused by exposure to Meth contamination in the home or apartment they recently moved into.

DrugWipe could be a great tool to help people quickly determine if that house or apartment they are looking at may be contaminated from a previous Meth lab. In fact, we’re talking to home inspectors about offering this service. They offer testing for things like radon and mold that people are concerned about – why not Meth?

The main reason why not is concern over liabilities. If you know there’s a problem then you have to do something about it. In St. Louis now there’s a line on the Seller’s Disclosure statement dealing with Meth labs. You have to check a box certifying that the production of methamphetamines has never occurred in the property. If a realtor or property owner is in the dark about whether meth production previously took place in a property or not, they don’t have to disclose anything. I can fully understand the “ignorance is bliss” argument. Not knowing provides a level of safety in some perverse way. Or does it?

Check out this recent story out of Utah. Remember the Osmonds? No, not the Osbornes, the other musical family, the Osmonds - Donny and Marie. Their family owns a real estate company in Utah. Recently a young couple bought a house through the Osmond’s real estate company. It turns out the house used to house a Meth Lab. The couple suffered a wide range of ailments due to the lingering contamination and has had to move out of the house. They also had to throw out all their clothes and many of their personal effects (a piano, an heirloom rug, etc.) because they were all contaminated from the Meth residue. They are now suing the Osmond’s real estate company for $200,000. They want to negate the contract and get their money back for the house and their personal property.

Do they deserve it? Should the realtor be held liable whether they knew about the Meth lab or not? Should realtors be required to do more homework on a property to uncover past problems like a Meth lab before listing it? Who else could be held liable? The Seller? A home inspector?

If this couple wins, the reverberations will echo throughout the real estate community. It will eliminate the “ignorance is bliss” argument because a realtor could now be sued for not knowing. It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds.

Meth is just one issue that those in real estate face when it comes to drugs. I’ll discuss some of the others in the coming days.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Earlier this week we exhibited at the 3rd Annual Greater St. Louis Safety and Health Conference. It's put on by a topnotch organization, the Safety Council of Greater St. Louis. The Safety Council's Director is Leslie Foran who is a passionate, energetic, hardworking leader who, along with her wonderful staff, is dedicated to improving the safety of all our lives here in the St. Louis area. They offer a number of low-cost and free programs and I'd recommend checking out their web site to see what they offer.

The conference was a blast! We met a lot of people involved in safety with companies big and small. We got a ton of those “Wow, you can really do that?” responses I wrote about last week. On a couple of occasions we’d be talking with one person from a company and they would go find their boss or a co-worker and bring them back to see DrugWipe for themselves. Hopefully we’ll be able to help a lot of them out in trying to get drugs out of their workplace.

Attendees who stopped by our booth shared a lot of stories about all the trouble that drug use in the workplace causes them. One man told us that his company had an employee die this year due to an accident in which drugs were involved. Another told us that they rounded up about 20 employees a few weeks ago for a random drug test and 80% of them tested positive!

I don’t think many people realize how prevalent drugs are in the workplace. At least I didn’t until we started IDS last year. It’s really opened my eyes to what’ going on out there. We’ve tested companies with as few as 5 employees and come back with positive results for cocaine and marijuana.

And the impact of drug use on worker’s safety is huge. Government statistics indicate that drug using employees are 3.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident and 5 times more likely to file a Workers’ Comp claim. The government also estimates that 38% - 50% of Worker’s Comp claims are related to substance abuse. Bill and I have both talked with a number of people in the insurance industry who say that’s pretty conservative and it’s probably more like 50% - 65%.

In Missouri, the liability of an employer as related to substance abuse and Workers’ Comp changed considerably last August when a new Worker’s Comp law went into affect.

The section of the law related to substance abuse is Section 287.120. Provision 287.120.6 states:

Where the employee fails to obey any rule or policy adopted by the employer related to a drug-free workplace or the use of alcohol or nonprescribed controlled drugs in the workplace, the compensation and death benefit provided for herein shall be reduced by fifty percent if the injury was sustained in conjunction with the use of alcohol or nonprescribed controlled drugs.

If, however, the use of alcohol or nonprescribed controlled drugs in violation of the employer’s rule or policy is the proximate cause of the injury, then the benefits or compensation otherwise payable under this chapter for death or disability shall be forfeited.

The lessons to take away from this:

Lesson #1: In Missouri, employers NEED to have a strong drug-free workplace policy.

Lesson #2: Drugs don’t pay! If you get yourself injured or killed on the job and it was because you were using drugs – you and your family aren’t getting any money from Workers’ Comp.

Workers’ Comp and safety are just one of many issues that are adversely impacted by drug activity in the workplace. I’ll talk about many of those other issues in the coming weeks and months.

We look forward to next year’s conference and, please, stay safe out there!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You Can Really Do That??!!

Whenever you meet someone new, the question “What do you do” inevitably comes up. I love getting that question! Why? Because we do something at IDS that most people have never heard of and they find it truly fascinating. I’ve immediately got their attention. Their eyes widen with interest as I explain what we do. Then finally comes the “Wow! I didn’t know you could do that!”

We sure can.

So what exactly do we do?

We can find drug users and traffickers by testing property instead of people. How? I’m glad you asked!

As people sweat, they secrete harmful toxins from their bodies. Included in that category are narcotic substances. So as it turns out, people that use illegal drugs leave a “trail” as they go about their daily activities. They transfer trace amounts of invisible narcotic residue to the surfaces they touch (ie. computers, phones, lockers, steering wheels, clothing, etc.).

That’s not just true for people who use drugs. Those who traffic illegal narcotics also leave a trail on surfaces. In the process of handling those drugs, they get the residue on their hands which can be transferred to surfaces.

Lastly, the production of illegal drugs leaves surface residue behind. Here in Missouri we have a big problem with the production of Methamphetamine. The production of Meth leaves a toxic residue on the walls, carpets, HVAC systems and more in the property where the “cooking” takes place. This is a very harmful situation that can affect future occupants of a home, apartment, motel room, or car where Meth production took place.

Integrity Detection Systems has brought an amazing technology to St. Louis called DrugWipe. DrugWipe is a device that can detect invisible traces of illegal narcotic residue on surfaces. That residue can be from either drug users, traffickers, or from the production of illegal narcotics.

A similar device, PreScreen, is used for drug testing individuals. PreScreen works by swiping the collection pads across someone’s forehead or hands to collect a sweat sample.

DrugWipe and PreScreen kind of resemble a home pregnancy test in both size and function. There are a few fleece pads that are used to collect samples off a surface. The device is then activated by using water to draw the sample through the device.

Within 5 minutes a red line appears in the read-out window that shows what type of drug, if any, was detected. There are also control lines that show the device functioned properly and hadn’t been tampered with.

Inside the device are patented “biosensors”, which are highly specific antibodies that will bind with any drug particles present in the sample. DrugWipe and PreScreen test simultaneously for cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and amphetamines. Derivatives of those drugs are also detected (like Heroin and Morphine in the Opiate class; Meth and XTC in the Amphetamine class).

Pretty cool, huh?

We’ve started this blog to discuss the technology, the issue of drugs in our society, interesting things we find during our assessments (though due to confidentiality we will NEVER identify our clients), and business in general. Hope you come back and visit us often!