Mass Drug Testing in Virginia

Tue Mar. 28, 2006 1:02 PM EST

Fairfax County, Virginia, recently agreed to a White House pilot program that tests water from the Potomac River Basin for cocaine. The samples have already been collected and shipped off to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, where they are currently being evaluated for traces of the main urinary byproduct of the drug. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors say it is no indication that there is a predominance of drug use in the region, rather, that the White House sees it as a tool to compile a more accurate drug use index.

This is a slippery slope—and could have greater repercussions than simply a change in statistics. Could health insurance companies use the data to increase premiums in the area, citing higher risk clients? Could the results have effects on the way federal funds are disbursed? David Murray, special assistant to national drug czar John P. Walters, said that the wastewater testing "will be very, very useful."