President Reagan set the tone by offering up a sample in a bottle,
thereby launching officially the latest federal drive to curb the
misuse of drugs, whether legal or illegal. In this campaign,
however, the emphasis clearly is on illegal substances.
The president may not have been aware of it, but Oklahomans have
been waging a war for some time against the menace of drug abuse.
Every major hospital in Oklahoma City has committed certain of
itsresources to the task of detecting harmful drug usage, and beyond
that, to rehabilitation. Kicking the habit, if you will.
At St. Anthony Hospital, the heat was turned up recently with some
additional high tech instruments designed to strengthen the hands
devoted to drug testing. At the same time, the hospital is taking
steps to make mass screening and treatment more accessible to
Oklahoma City employers and their work forces.
Dr. T.W. Violett, the director of clinical pathology at St.
Anthony, and Dr. Mike Fowler, a chemist in charge of drug screening,
appear ready to toss the net in a wider circle as they try to
persuade more and more people to take full advantage of the resources
The newest pearl: a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, a
$100,000 piece of automated equipment with the capacity to screen up
to 30 patient samples an hour.
Fowler describes it as a device for basic screening. But there
are other "more labor intensive steps" in the drug tracking process.
With the tools at hand, the technologists at St. Anthony even can
identify as many as 120 drugs or chemical agents detected in mass
screening. This process, in the simplest terms, involves a
"With it (the mass spectrometer), we will try to offer business a
complete program for employees and potential employees," said
Violett. "The use of drugs may endanger people in the work place,
andcompanies need to take a serious look at it. We see a lot of it
Invariably, talk of mass screening raises an element of concern
about the accuracy of testing. Will a false positive finding
unfairly tar someone and result in an unjust firing and possible
long-term economic damage or, in extreme cases, end with a criminal
No one can say with absolute certainty that every test would yield
a perfect result. But fears of a reckless drug testing system
running amok are groundless. In fact, the testing protocols in use
today are reasonably sound.
Fowler asks the important question: How good is the methodology? …