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.