People question the validity of test results
l Usha Drukpa, Thimphu
Even as the debate on the Spasmo-proxyvon Plus and Spasmo-proxyvon continues, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has declared that urine tests to check substance abuse will be held, before graduates sit for the main Bhutan Civil Service Examinations (BCSE).
While most people have taken it positively, the debate is on validity of the test results, as people who take medicines genuinely prescribed could also test positive.
A senior pharmacist from the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) said that test kits can vary but are mainly designed to test Cocaine, Opiates/Opioids, Meth-amphitamines, Cannabis, and Benzodiazepines. Any medicine, which has the above components, can give a positive result. For instance, people who have taken sleeping pills will test positive for Benzodiazepines, Tramadol and Ultracet. Similarly, any pain killer that contains Tramadol can test positive for Tramadol, which is also one of the component of Spasmo-proxyvon Plus. He added that people who have taken cold medicines that contain pseudo-ephidrine or ephedrine [not allowed to be sold in Bhutan] will test positive for methamphetamine.
When asked about the widely used paracetamol and sinarest, he mentioned that the two will not yield positive result.
Meanwhile, a medical specialist said that the duration of the drugs remaining in the human body’s system varies, from few hours to days. “For instance cannabis, whose main ingredient is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can remain for as long as 15 days in the body fat,” he said, adding that if the RCSC is going to adopt this “screening process,” people who have taken a medicine containing the above components should keep their medical prescriptions. “They should also be careful about self-medication, especially those who come from India. Just as a pilot at the Paro International Airport tested positive as he had taken cough syrup, there are possibilities of such incidences being repeated,” he said.
Another pharmacist from the JDWNRH said controlled drugs are strictly kept under lock and key at the hospital. “These medicines do contain chemicals, which can lead to a person being tested positive,” he said, adding that the medicines are prescribed by specialists, especially for those with severe pain.
According to the RCSC, those who test positive will be rejected from the civil service. However, those testing positive will be given a chance to start all over the next year, including sitting for the Preliminary Examinations (PE).
Meanwhile, a graduate said that testing the graduates before the main BCSE examinations is another hurdle for the new graduates. “The rules are becoming tighter and tighter but not to improve anything, not to nurture young minds but to tame and reject them in every possible way,” she said. She said that everything looks like a staged video game, with every level becoming tougher and tougher. “The PE itself was enough to segregate the so called “intellectually sound” and “not so sound”graduates. And the drug testing is another one,” she said.
Another graduate said that though he has never abused substances, he feels that everyone must be given a chance to realize their mistake, and rectify it at their own pace, as long as it doesn’t affect the service delivered. “If RCSC wants drug free employees, they should go about checking every offices and every institution,” he said, adding that even from the social angle, the “move is not good.” “If someone tests positive because of various reasons, he or she will be socially ostracized,” he said.
Speaking along the same lines, another graduate said that drug test is good. “But without any awareness or advocacy, it appears that the test has been introduced to fix abusers.” “Instead, RCSE and other agencies should provide counseling and rehabilitation before they join services,” she said, adding that this could make “youths go astray.” “It will destroy dreams of many young talented and an able graduate who are into substance. All Everybody who abuse substances is not useless; even Sigmund Freud was addicted to cocaine for some period of his life,” she said.
RCSC officials could not be contacted for their comments.