Part II of II (Part I)

While MPs should be sober, drug tests do not test one’s current functions, only one’s past use of drugs. And if we really wanted our MPs sober, we’d introduce more sensible working hours rather than let laws be voted on in marathon sessions into the early hours.

While testing for performance- enhancing drugs may be justified for athletes, penalizing athletes for other drug uses seems unwarranted.  And if a worker is impaired at work, this can be noted by colleagues and management without drug tests.

The issue of enforcement raises questions, too. The laws that allowed police to harass women for wearing short shorts, mini-skirts and halter-tops still exist, but we’d all agree it would be draconian to enforce them today. The laws we choose to highlight and enforce are selective, and, in some ways, political rather than evidence-based and rational.

There is a role for drug-testing within a drug-treatment programme for an individual. Here, the drug testing is not about punishment but about gauging progress.

One part of the misinformation of the ‘war on terror’ has been a conflation between ‘drug use’ and ‘drug abuse’. ‘Use’ refers to the casual use of drugs in a way that does not lead to negative or social/economic consequences — a casual drug user is able to function.  Abuse is when it impairs the ability to function within society or a family, and/or one’s health is affected.

Most drug users fall into the casual use category — and this is particularly true of cannabis users. As addictive as some drugs are, not all drug use equals drug abuse.

The drug tests for MPs only indicate drug use, not drug abuse. That Bermuda may be one of the first countries to move to testing politicians is not testament to any trailblazing on our part. Rather, it is a testament to the weakness of our constitutional and privacy rights, along with the dominance of conservative thought in our society.

Consequences?

We should question the motives and whether drug tests are a misapplication of the technology. We also need to critically ask what the consequences of such an initiative might be.  

If the argument is that MPs should be tested because other workers are, then the consequence will be that all workers should be tested because MPs are now. And as such drug treatment programmes are often paid for out of health insurance, what does this mean for our already high healthcare costs and premiums?

In short, drug-testing outside of a drug treatment programme is a misapplication of technology, it is punitive, and reinforces misinformation regarding drugs.