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The decrease in the number of sailors getting positive readings for drugs — in spite of increased testing — has spurred Navy officials to mull a policy change that could double the minimum number of sailors screened for drugs each month.

Currently, 10 percent of sailors assigned to a unit must be tested randomly each month.

“The Navy is looking at all areas of its urinalysis program to enhance both its deterrent effect and detection capabilities,” said William Flannery, leader of the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Branch. “One area under review is the possibility of increasing the minimum random requirements from 10 percent monthly to 20 percent monthly.”

Over the past several years, Navy officials increased testing of its sailors by more than 40 percent, and the net result has been a decrease of nearly 50 percent of sailors who test positive, said Navy Personnel Command spokesman Senior Chief Bill Houlihan.

In fiscal 2001, for example, the 799,531 samples taken yielded 6,251 positive results. In fiscal 2005, nearly 1.4 million samples yielded just 3,606 positive results.

Marijuana is the most popular abused drug, accounting for 55 percent of the positive hits, followed by cocaine at 21 percent, methamphetamine at 19 percent, Ecstasy at 3 percent and other drugs at 2 percent.

“Drug use in the Navy is on the decline,” Houlihan said.

With the success of increased testing and its deterrent effect, the Navy simply wished to expand on that success, Houlihan said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Rhonda Sawyer is all for it.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said the 16-year veteran who is a postal adviser for Navy Region Europe in Naples, Italy. “The Navy has a zero tolerance, and this is just a means to ensure that fellow sailors are abiding by the rules.”

There’s no deadline yet of when officials will decide whether to change the testing policy, Houlihan said.

In September, drug and alcohol awareness officials toured Navy bases worldwide to deliver a firm anti-drug message: no more second chances.

With the service drawing down its forces, and few worries of meeting retention and recruiting goals, the Navy can afford to be picky about the quality of sailors it keeps, said touring officials from the Norfolk, Va.-based Center for Personal Development Detachment, Drug and Alcohol Program Management Activity.

Commanders not only are giving the boot to those who violate anti-drug use and alcohol abuse policies, but they’re doing so in the quickest and cheapest way possible — through the administrative separation process, center director Lt. Cmdr. Tony Kapuschansky had said.

For more information on the Navy testing program, go to www.npc.navy.mil\nadap.

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