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Drug Demand Reduction: Debunking drug-testing myths

Senior Airman Eloisa Paez of the 507th Medical Squadron’s Drug Demand Reduction team waits as an Airman verifies his information on his urine sample during urinalysis testing Oct. 3, 2015, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The 507th MDS is required to test 100 percent of the Reservist population each year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Charles Taylor)

Senior Airman Eloisa Paez of the 507th Medical Squadron’s Drug Demand Reduction team waits as an Airman verifies his information on his urine sample during urinalysis testing Oct. 3, 2015, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The 507th MDS is required to test 100 percent of the Reservist population each year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Charles Taylor)

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Paradis of the 507th Medical Squadron’s Drug Demand Reduction team ensures paperwork is in order during urinalysis testing Oct. 3, 2015, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The DDR team is responsible for testing Tinker Airmen within the Reserve, which includes the 507th Air Refueling Wing, the 513th Air Control Group and the 35th Combat Communication Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Charles Taylor)

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Paradis of the 507th Medical Squadron’s Drug Demand Reduction team ensures paperwork is in order during urinalysis testing Oct. 3, 2015, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The DDR team is responsible for testing Tinker Airmen within the Reserve, which includes the 507th Air Refueling Wing, the 513th Air Control Group and the 35th Combat Communication Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Charles Taylor)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The 507th Medical Squadron's Drug Demand Reduction team offered a few tips to keep members informed of the program's purpose and how to adhere to the guidelines.

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Paradis, 507th MDS DDR team member, says the goal of testing is to prevent members from using illegal drugs and from abusing prescription drugs.

"Random and frequent testing ensures that Airmen who use drugs are held accountable for violating the Air Force's zero-tolerance policy," said Paradis.

The 507th MDS DDR team is responsible for testing Airmen within the Reserve, which includes the 507th Air Refueling Wing, the 513th Air Control Group and the 35th Combat Communication Squadron.

Master Sgt. Steven Kirk, DDR program manager, said some Airmen believe they get singled out for testing, and he said that is not true. He said a computer program randomly selects names.

"Everybody tests," said Kirk. "The wing commander gets tested, I get tested--everybody gets tested. This isn't a program that leaves anybody out. It's equal-opportunity."

Paradis said the amount of people being tested varies monthly, but they are required to test 100 percent of the Reservist population annually, which explains why some members are repeatedly tested.

For example, if the entire Reservist population was six people, but three of those people were deployed or unavailable for testing, then the remaining three would need to be tested twice in order to be compliant with the 100 percent goal.

"We are trying to keep the Air Force a safe work environment," said Kirk. "Make sure you are available for testing any day of the week."

Members must report to the 72nd Medical Group Clinic within two hours of receiving the notification of selection for testing letter. The member must produce a urine sample in full view of an observer. Once complete, the member will sign the sealed container and submit the sample to a DDR team member. After all the specimens are collected, the team mails them to a lab in Texas for testing.

If a member is found to be using drugs that are not legally prescribed and annotated in the member's medical record, the DDR team will initiate a package detailing the drugs found in the member's urine and forward the package to the member's commander for review.

It is crucial for Airmen to keep their prescriptions updated within their medical record.
"If you get the new prescription right after a UTA weekend, and then get drug tested the following month, but you didn't update your file--we will start a positive package," said Paradis.

As a precaution against failing a test because of a legitimate prescription, new prescriptions must be faxed or hand-carried to the 507th MDS.

"It just goes back to having personal accountability," said Paradis. "If your career means that much, you should strive to keep your medical records straight."

All prescriptions must be taken within a year of being prescribed in order to be within regulations.

The staff realizes that most Airmen are not thrilled to pay the clinic a visit, so they said they try to make visiting a light-hearted experience by playing movies and making jokes to keep it a smooth and fluid process.

"Come hydrated," said Kirk. "Don't overthink it. It's not going to be that dreadful of a process. We will try to get you in and out as soon as possible."