Workplace Drug Testing in a Military Organization: Results and Experiences from the Testing Program in the Finnish Defence Forces

Meririnne E, Mykkänen S, Lillsunde P, Kuoppasalmi K, Lerssi R, Laaksonen I, Lehtomäki K, Henriksson M

In the military environment drug abuse is a particular risk for occupational safety. In the Finnish Defence Forces a drug testing program was conducted in 2002-2005; soldiers, professional civilians, and military students were tested when applying for a work or right to study; furthermore, annually 5% of the personnel were subjected to random testing. In total, over 2000 urine samples were analyzed in an accredited laboratory for cannabis, opiates, amphetamines, or cocaine. In this article, the drug testing program as a part of the anti-drug strategy of the Finnish Defence Forces is described, and the findings including practical experiences and financial expenses are reported. Only one person applying for a civilian post tested positive for amphetamine and cannabis. In seven other samples codeine and morphine were detected; these were, however, due to prescribed medication, not drug abuse. In the execution of the program, no particular difficulties were reported. In conclusion, it seems that the use of illicit drugs in the Finnish military is extremely rare, at least partly due to the successful anti-drug strategy. After an elaborate planning, even an extensive drug testing program can be executed without substantial setbacks. In the future, the effectiveness of drug testing programs as a means of improving occupational safety needs to be investigated in controlled studies using comparative design.

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