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Fox Morning News, TV Channel 5, Wash., D.C., 8:11am, Jan. 23, 1997.
Brian Wilson, Host, Fox Morning News:
Parents who suspect their children are using drugs will soon have a new testing kit available, that can be used in the privacy of their own home. "Dr. Brown's Home Drug-Testing System" is the first kit to gain the approval of the Food and Drug Administration.
But even with the accessibility of such a test, should parents actually use it? The creator of the test is J. Theodore Brown, Jr., a clinical psychologist based in Maryland. He joins us here this morning, along with Jeffrey Schaler, who is a psychologist also, associated with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us here. And we have actually, this little kit right here in front of us. It's a very simple kit. Basically, it's a way to take a urine sample. It is sent in in the mail, and then you get test results back, what, a few weeks later?
BROWN: A few days later. The test results will be available between one to three days after the specimen arrives at the laboratory.
WILSON: And so then you dial in and give a special code and somebody gives you the results?
BROWN: That's correct. A 1-800 number is provided. The customer calls in, obtains the results, as well as an explanation of those results, and in addition to that, we will be making a clinical referral to a health care provider, a substance abuse specialist, or a physician...
WILSON: ...If that's required...
BROWN: ...as indicated.
WILSON: Alright, let me ask you though about the larger question here. A lot of parents now have this available to them. It will be, I guess, available to drug stores, etc. And they now have the decision to make: If they suspect that their child may be using drugs, or if they just want the peace of mind that comes with knowing yes or no they're not, they can administer this test and have their kids take it. But should they? What's your reaction to that question?
BROWN: My reaction to that basically points to the very high incidents of substance abuse that we've had in this country, especially over the last five years, four or five years. I think the statistics indicate that that has doubled. The number of teenagers between the ages of 12 and I think 15 or even younger, over, I think, 60 percent are experimenting with illicit drugs. I think given the consequences of substance abuse, not only to the individual using the drugs, but the impact that it has on the whole family, pretty much warrants that parents start to assume primary responsibility rather than deferring that to others.
WILSON: Well, Dr. Brown, I guess the question is, doesn't it destroy trust, though, between the parent and the child?
BROWN: No, I think the term "trust" is terribly misapplied in this circumstance and situation. The primary issue is one of parental responsibility. "Trust" presupposes that the individual can exercise proper judgment, if you will, is competent to distinguish right from wrong, and to inspire the confidence and faith that goes along with the concept of trust. This basically purports to emphasize the parental responsibility, and I think dereliction or negligence of that responsibility, given the consequences would be terrible.
WILSON: Jeffrey Schaler, you are a psychologist as well, and I think you have a different perspective on all this.
SCHALER: Yes. Certainly Dr. Brown is capitalizing on the "war on drugs" hysteria. He says that his drug-testing kit is good for America, but really it's good for him. Of course, he's going to make money on this, and he's going to make a lot of money because what parents are going to do is turn their kids in, if they find out they've been using drugs, into his addiction treatment programs.
I think what's important though, is to think about why this is a newsworthy event in the first place. Well, because history tends to repeat itself. Sixty years ago the government of Germany encouraged children to turn in their parents for crimes against the state. Back then the crime against the state was a mythical disease called Judaism.
Today, the federal government is encouraging parents to turn their kids into the state and to addiction treatment professionals for a mythical disease called drug addiction...
WILSON: ...Let me stop you right there...
SCHALER: ...I think this is a sorry state.
WILSON: ...That's harsh rhetoric you're using...
SCHALER: ...I think this is a very sorry statement...
WILSON: ...Let me just interrupt you for a second...
SCHALER: ... of family values...
WILSON: ...Let me ask you this question though: I mean, if you're a parent, don't you want to know?...
SCHALER: ...Of course you want to know...
WILSON: ...And if there's a problem don't you want to step in and try to solve the problem?
SCHALER: Absolutely. But let me suggest this...
WILSON: ...How can you know if you don't do a test?
SCHALER: You can know by paying attention to your children. Let me suggest this to parents: If you're even considering using Dr. Brown's drug-testing kit, you have a problem
already. And you need to talk to your kids. You don't need to buy his kit. You don't need to listen to addiction-treatment professionals, the federal government, pushing all this anti-war rhetoric...
WILSON: ...a chance to respond to that...
BROWN: Well, obviously Dr. Schaler has a problem with the concept of capitalism and the profit system...
SCHALER: ...I have no problem whatsoever with the concept of capitalism...
BROWN: ...that is basically the basis for this country. His assumption, or if you will, presumption, that we will make money is yet to be determined. I hope that he is correct, to that extent we will be able to provide even more services and indeed whatever money we make will not be nearly as much as the people who are actually peddling the illicit drugs and offering them to our children in the forms of tattoos and other clandestine mechanisms that they have an inordinate amount of money to create. I think that, overall, the company has created this product with the best intentions. I think the government has cleared it under very significant scrutiny. I think it is incumbent upon the individual parent to make a decision as to whether or not Dr. Schaler's prepositions are appropriate or whether or not they're concerned about their kid becoming or not becoming one of the statistics.
WILSON: Now let me just ask you one other question that comes to mind, and that these drug tests are not absolutely fool-proof. And that there are occasionally false-positive results.
BROWN: Absolutely incorrect. There are no false positives. Let me make that very clear...
WILSON: ...Now hold it. I've heard stories that if you eat a poppy-seed bagel you can show, come up positive, for cocaine in some cases...
BROWN: Again, this is part of our effort, I think, with this product, to educate the public. There is no false positive. If we report a positive test result, something that has been ingested or used, that conforms to the protocol of the drugs that we are testing for, has been determined to be existent. Now, whether or not that came from medicine, food, or actually illicit drugs is yet to be determined. We have our personnel and staff prepared to provide the necessary assistance, and in addition, we have the professionals who will basically help the parents clarify and rule out whether it is in fact food, drugs, or some other illicit substance.
WILSON: Last word from Dr. Schaler.
SCHALER: This drug-testing kit has really become a representation of the sorry state of family values in America. Certainly, I think Dr. Brown has a right to market his product. But, let's see it for what it really is...
WILSON: ...very quickly...
SCHALER: ...a way to make money and a way to alienate children from their parents.
WILSON: We'll have to leave it right there. A good discussion. Thank you both for joining us. We appreciate it. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
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