Entries Tagged "drug testing"

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Mapping Drug Use by Testing Sewer Water

I wrote about this in 2007, but there’s new research:

Scientists from Oregon State University, the University of Washington and McGill University partnered with city workers in 96 communities, including Pendleton, Hermiston and Umatilla, to gather samples on one day, March 4, 2008. The scientists then tested the samples for evidence of methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy, or MDMA.

Addiction specialists were not surprised by the researchers’ central discovery, that every one of the 96 cities—representing 65 percent of Oregon’s population—had a quantifiable level of methamphetamine in its wastewater.

“This validates what we suspected about methamphetamine use in Oregon,” said Geralyn Brennan, addiction prevention epidemiologist for the Department of Human Services.

Drug researchers previously determined the extent of illicit drug use through mortality records and random surveys, which are not considered entirely reliable. Survey respondents may not accurately recall how much or how often they use illicit drugs and they may not be willing to tell the truth. Surveys also gathered information about large regions of the state, not individual cities.

The data gathered from municipal wastewater, however, are concrete and reveal a detailed snapshot of drug use for that day. Researchers placed cities into ranks based on a drug’s “index load” – average milligrams per person per day.

These techniques can detect drug usage at individual houses. It’s just a matter of where you take your samples.

Posted on July 23, 2009 at 6:09 AMView Comments

Drug Testing an Entire Community

You won’t identity individual users, but you can test for the prevalence of drug use in a community by testing the sewage water.

Presumably, if you push the sample high enough into the pipe, you can test groups of houses or even individual houses.

EDITED TO ADD (7/13): Here’s information on drug numbers in the Rhine. They estimated that, for a population of 38,5 million feeding wastewater into the Rhine down to Düsseldorf, cocaine use amounts to 11 metric tonnes per year. Street value: 1.64 billion Euros.

Posted on August 24, 2007 at 12:35 PMView Comments


Does this EyeCheck device sound like anything other than snake oil:

The device looks like binoculars, and in seconds it scans an individuals pupils to detect a problem.

“They’ll be able to tell if they’re on drugs, and what kind, whether marijuana, cocaine, or alcohol. Or even in the case of a tractor trailer driver, is he too tired to drive his rig?” said Ohio County Sheriff Tom Burgoyne.

The device can also detect abnormalities from chemical and biological effects, as well as natural disasters.

Here’s the company. The device is called a pupillometer, and “uses patented technologies to deliver reliable pupil measurements in less than five minutes for the detection of drugs and fatigue.” And despite what the article implied, the device doesn’t do this at a distance.

I’m not impressed with the research, but this is not my area of expertise. Anyone?

Posted on September 18, 2006 at 1:39 PMView Comments

Cell Phone Security

No, it’s not what you think. This phone has a built-in Breathalyzer:

Here’s how it works: Users blow into a small spot on the phone, and if they’ve had too much to drink the phone issues a warning and shows a weaving car hitting traffic cones.

You can also configure the phone not to let you dial certain phone numbers if you’re drunk. Think ex-lovers.

Now that’s a security feature I can get behind.

Posted on July 5, 2006 at 2:45 PMView Comments

DUI Cases Thrown Out Due to Closed-Source Breathalyzer


Hundreds of cases involving breath-alcohol tests have been thrown out by Seminole County judges in the past five months because the test’s manufacturer will not disclose how the machines work.

I think this is huge. (Think of the implications for voting systems, for one.) And it’s the right decision. Throughout history, the government has had to make the choice: prosecute, or keep your investigative methods secret. They couldn’t have both. If they wanted to keep their methods secret, they had to give up on prosecution.

People have the right to confront their accuser. And people have the right to a public trial. This is the correct decision, and we are all safer because of it.

Posted on September 16, 2005 at 6:46 AMView Comments

Lance Armstrong Accused of Doping

Lance Armstrong has been accused of using a banned substance while racing the Tour de France. From a security perspective, this isn’t very interesting. Blood and urine tests are used to detect banned substances all the time. But what is interesting is that the urine sample was from 1999, and the test was done in 2005.

Back in 1999, there was no test for the drug EPO. Now there is. Someone took a old usine sample—who knew that they stored old urine samples?—and ran the new test.

This ability of a security mechanism to go back in time is interesting, and similar to police exhuming dead bodies for new forensic analysis, or a new cryptographic technique permitting decades-old encrypted messages to be read.

It also has some serious ramifications for athletes considering using banned substances. Not only do they have to evade any tests that exist today, but they have to at least think about how they could evade any tests that might be invented in the future. You could easily imagine athletes being stripped of their records, medals, and titles decades in the future after past transgressions are discovered.

On the other hand, athletes accused of using banned substances in the past have limited means by which to defend themselves. Perhaps they will start storing samples of their own blood and urine in escrow, year after year, so they’d have well-stored and untainted bodily fluids with which to refute charges of past transgressions.

Posted on September 7, 2005 at 6:32 AM

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.