Further Reading

How far can drug testing go?

Dr. Peele:

Some time back (perhaps a year), I sent a a letter to you with a clipping from NASA technical briefs that described an arm-band that could detect drugs in sweat.

You mention that in Diseasing of America--would we as Americans approve of such a device? I was telling you that it is a reality. Just wondering if you ever received it?

Chris Wilson


Dear Chris:

My web site has only been available for 8 months, and I don't recall receiving the mailing you describe.

However, my interest in the specific technologies of drug testing is limited. This is because the underlying issue transcends the fallibility of any individual system. That is, I don't want to argue about the reliability of urine testing, hair samples, sweating, etc., because eventually, we will be able to test for the presence of drugs accurately. Then what?

The U.S. Supreme Court seemed willing to allow Americans to be tested on just about any pretext. In Van Raab (1989), customs workers were tested based on the dangers should one be addicted to drugs, given the possibility of bribes by drug traffickers, although no such case had actually been uncovered. As the great proponent of personal liberties, Anthony Scalia, noted in a dissenting opinion in that case, individual rights were being immolated in a symbolic bonfire. Finally, in the 1997 Georgia legislator testing case, the Court announced there was some limit to its liberalness about drug testing.

Consider when we can implant an imperceivable chip in the brains of every American, so that we can determine moment by moment what substances are entering their systems. Alarm lights could go off in the neighboring police stations when illicit drug stimulation is detected. Americans, persuaded of the horrible dangers of drugs, will gladly submit to this Orwellian nightmare. Perhaps drug reform is happening, and I will continue to work for it, but my current read is that Americans would say simply, "Who would complain about this? -- drug users!"

Best, Stanton (Chicken) Little