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No logic in subjecting doctors, dentists to drug testing

12:12 AM July 10, 2013

Hardly had I celebrated the news that mandatory drug testing has been removed as a requirement for driver licensing than I realized it continues to be required of doctors and dentists securing the license (S2) to prescribe regulated drugs.  I do not see the logic! If nonmedical persons are now presumed to be drug free and capable of driving a vehicle safely, why are doctors and dentists not presumed to be similarly responsible enough to be in the same condition in utter respect and concern for their profession? Besides, if there is any group more aware than drug users of how to test negative in a drug assay these would be the people in the medical profession.

I welcomed the logic of removing the drug test requirement for drivers because certainly, it had no value other than support the sudden mushrooming of fly-by-night laboratories. I had the mishap of testing “positive” once in a laboratory beside the Land Transportation Office branch on Shaw Boulevard. The technician was not even discreet enough to avoid announcing to the entire waiting room that I had tested positive. Luckily, I was convincingly in my doctor’s attire to tell the people around that it must be a mistake. Nonetheless, I endured not only that momentary embarrassment but also three weeks of waiting for confirmatory results from the same laboratory. I asked to be retested at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC), which undoubtedly is a more reliable place to get a drug test from, but PHC refused because of  a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) rule that one cannot be retested within six months after a prior test. As a consequence, the PDEA and the Department of Health had me, a  known practicing psychiatrist, in a “central computer list” for these three weeks as a possible drug user!

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I was suspicious. I called a member of the PDEA board whom I knew to ask her to have the laboratory investigated. I wondered if the laboratory just wanted to squeeze a few extra pesos from me. I never found out if the lab was investigated.

I suggest that drug testing be retained only for the random check of employees in companies where safety is of primary importance like airlines and especially hospitals and other institutions which could provide easy access to dangerous and regulated drugs. I also recommend that all nonhospital-based drug testing centers be closed down and that major public hospitals put up their drug assaying facilities.

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I don’t deny that there is a need to identify drug users and dependents walking around us. The ones who go out of control usually land in the hospital and get the attention of mental health professionals. It is those who look and act normal in between who are of grave concern and you will not catch them when they apply for any kind of license!

—JUNE LOPEZ MD, FPPA, professor of psychiatry, University of the Philippines, [email protected]

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TAGS: Drug, Drug Testing, Licensing, PDEA, PHC, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Philippine Heart Center, Regulated Drugs
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