The deeper problems with Government drug testing

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There's a lot more to consider when it comes to the idea of drug testing (Screenshot via YouTube)

With all the talk of drug testing welfare recipients, Melvin Fechner explores some of the deeper issues, largely from experience.

THE DRUG TESTING of welfare recipients has been on the LNP agenda for quite a while now. As an ex-drug user who has successfully become stable and clean for a few years now, I can see that this idea will be impossible to orchestrate and carry out successfully without chaos and sky-high expense.

I’m very familiar with urine drug tests, having had to do them regularly as part of my recovery. I also know that they only screen for a handful of the most mainstream drugs — marijuana, cocaine, heroin, speed and ecstasy. These are also the most expensive drugs to purchase. The many cheap and plentiful synthetic drugs are not covered by these tests. How will this curb addiction? An individual on Newstart could really only afford one hit a week of a mainstream drug as street drugs are very expensive. One hit a week does not maketh an addict, just like one drink a week doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic.

I cannot even imagine how the testing will be run. Will they have a little pee station set up at one’s local Centrelink office? Or will they send Newstart people off to their local GP with a form featuring a smirking face on the letterhead?

Since urine drug tests were invented, there have also been a plethora of products available to help those who need to provide a clean sample. eBay Australia and other online marketplaces are full of them, from scientifically dubious products to flush drugs from one’s system overnight, to fake dicks in every skin tone, to premixed powdered urine. Somebody will be making a lot of money if welfare drug testing comes to fruition.

Rounding up and testing people will be hideously expensive and if the Indue card also happens, the cost of the welfare system will triple, if not quadruple. Nobody is questioning the expense of these exercises. Cynical me thinks maybe this is an LNP plan to make the welfare system unsustainable in the long run and so they can one day say there will be no welfare at all as they can't afford it.

Then there is the problem of false positives. We have all heard the old yarns about somebody eating a poppy seed bagel and then getting tested positives for opiates. When I was being urine tested, I always gave a genuine sample knowing I was clean as a whistle because I was determined to be seen as drug-free. I was shocked one day when my GP said that I had tested positive for heroin as I knew I had not used any opiates.

I was angry and embarrassed for weeks and finally, I worked out what had gone wrong — I had used an antihistamine for hayfever which I get quite badly and this particular antihistamine contained dextromethorphan, which can give a false positive for heroin. Dextromethorphan is also in some Robitussin cough syrups and is sometimes abused as it is a dissociative and tripping on Robitussin is colloquially known as “roboing”. False positives will be a big problem – huge, in fact – and I bet a Newstart person won’t be believed if they say they haven’t taken anything.

I have mentioned previously in another article that I, unfortunately, became an addict after a divorce and the deaths of two relatives who I was very close to. Most people who become addicts don’t decide to become one for fun, it’s more often than not due to terrible things happening in their lives and they need a crutch. I got addicted to synthetic Fentanyl, a drug many times stronger than morphine and heroin. It’s also one of the hardest drugs to wean off from and is the cause of many deaths from overdosing because of how crazy strong it is.

One of its main attractions is that it’s very cheap. You could buy a bag online from China with an amount that will last about three weeks of daily use for about $100. Insanely cheap, but also very stupid. I ended up with a raging habit and, when my next FedEx package was seized, withdrawals so bad and more painful than anything I had ever experienced in my lifetime. Cue police raid. Yes, I was so stupid.

Most of these synthetic and analogue drugs don’t get picked up during urine drug screening. There are infinite varieties and one test can’t cover them all. There were a few Australian-based online stores that existed several years ago that sold “synthetic weed” — dried herbs sprayed with synthetic drugs. The websites boasted that you could use these drugs at work and if you got urine tested they wouldn’t show up. Their products were very popular with people who worked in mining who would use them to get through a hard day working in the mines.

The Prime Minister announced a couple of days ago that he supported the drug testing of politicians. Of course, he would say that, I thought. His religion is totally anti-drugs to the point of being anti-pharmaceuticals, as well.

Jacqui Lambie is on board with her support of the Indue card. This is especially disappointing because she should know better, having been through the angst of her son Dylan’s ice addiction. Ice addiction is an expensive habit and Dylan said that he funded his addiction through breaking and entering. An Indue card wouldn’t have helped him at all, or urine drug testing for that matter — he was using crime to pay for his drugs.

Dylan was sent to rehab for 12 months and has now thankfully recovered from his addiction. The thing about being an addict is that you have to want to recover and kick the drugs. You have to make that decision yourself, nobody can make you, it has to be firmly in your mind before you begin. Then you need to replace the thing you’re addicted to with something else that gives you a buzz.

I started writing again and it gave me more joy, more fun and more satisfaction than all those substances I took. If the Government were genuine about wanting to help people with drug addiction they would not use things like Indue cards, urine testing and punishments like cutting off vulnerable people’s welfare pittance. They would use that money for rehab and counselling services. We know this Government well enough by now to realise their agenda is never to help us regular folk, rather everything is about continually feathering their own nests and vilifying the poor.

Melvin Fechner worked as a library assistant/researcher for News Ltd in the 1990s but left due to political differences. Melvin blogs here at and is on Twitter @MelvinFWriter.

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