Friday, May 05, 2006

Drug Test Politicians

Congressman Patrick Kennedy was involved in a car crash at 245am which apparently was involving the prescription insomnia drug Ambien. Kennedy said he didn't remember getting up, driving, or the arrest. Here's a version of the story.

May 5 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy said he will check into Minnesota's Mayo Clinic for treatment of addiction to prescription drugs after crashing his car into a security barrier near the Capitol yesterday.

Kennedy said at a news conference in the Capitol that he was in treatment for prescription pain medication during the congressional Christmas recess and will return for treatment because he doesn't remember the events surrounding the 2:45 a.m. accident.

``That's not how I want to live my life,'' said Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat and the son of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. ``This afternoon, I am traveling to Minnesota to seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic to ensure that I can continue on my road to recovery.''

Kennedy, 38, said yesterday in a written statement that he took Ambien, a sleeping pill, along with a nausea drug, causing him to become ``disoriented'' shortly before the accident. He indicated today that he intends to remain in office, and didn't take questions from reporters.

In a police report about the incident, officers said that Kennedy first swerved into a wrong lane before crashing his 1997 green Ford Mustang into the security barrier. His car didn't have its headlights on, the report said, and he told officers that he needed to get to the Capitol for a vote, even though the House hadn't been in session for hours.

`Eyes Were Red'

Officers noted in the report that Kennedy's ``eyes were red and watery, speech was slightly slurred, and upon exiting his vehicle, his balance was unsure.''

Kennedy said in the statement yesterday that he didn't consume any alcohol before the accident. He said he has fought against depression and drug addiction since he was a young man.

Sanofi-Aventis SA's Ambien, the top-selling insomnia drug in the U.S., has been the subject of media reports suggesting the pill may cause users to drive or binge eat while sleepwalking.

``Ambien is safe and effective when used as prescribed,'' Melissa Feltmann, a spokeswoman for Paris-based Sanofi said today in a telephone interview. ``The prescribing information says patients should not drive a motor vehicle after taking Ambien, should not take Ambien with alcohol and should only take Ambien when the patient is able to get a full night's sleep.''

Kennedy yesterday denied that he sought special consideration from police. He said he offered to cooperate with their investigation.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that an official of the Fraternal Order of Police, the city's police union, said normal investigative practice would have been to offer the accident victim a breath test to determine his sobriety.

Instead, the union official said, a watch commander requested that officers give Kennedy a ride home, the newspaper said.

An idea of mine that has been swirling in my brain for a year or so is to have Congress and the White House undergo periodic drug testing. I began thinking this when Congress started having hearings into baseball steroid use and their drug policies. I wondered about all these high and mighty politicians scolding baseball (and other sports in later hearings) about drug testing when politicans themselves don't have to be drug tested. Considering that our Washington politicans are responsible for very important issues to all of us, wars for instance, I started to believe that if anyone in our society should be required to have mandatory drug testing it's them.

Most of us private citizens are subject to drug testing to get a job, politicians are never required pre-employment drug testing. If some of us mess up at work (have an accident, begin showing up late, etc.) we may have to be drug tested, yet politicians don't have this threat. Some private occupations require random drug testing, Congress and the White House don't. Military personnel have random drug testing, politicians don't. It seems plenty hypocritical for our politicians to allow so many of us to submit to drug testing yet they don't have this same implication on rights to privacy.

Kennedy has said that he is addicted to Ambien and is seeking drug treatment, yet was still making public decisions that affect us. Ambien has been accused of resulting in users driving a car in their sleep. I mean, WHAT? This is not good. Once Kennedy began his drug treatment, he should have been suspended from Congress until he beat his addiction, they'd do that for athletes and many of us. In fact plenty workers in the US might have been immediately fired for the Kennedy car accident under a drugs influence.

My Libertarian side is not in favor of mandatory and random drug testing, but my hypocrisy alert side is in favor of those that make and allow these drug testing policies be under those same policies. I'm not for drug testing even in athletics because of privacy rights, but some important occupations (airline pilots for one, politicians another!) should be monitored for drug use (including alcohol).

I would be willing to bet that if mandatory and random drug testing were to be applied to our Washington politicians and then the violators made public we would have plenty of cases to discuss. Never mind illegal drugs for a minute, alcohol and prescription drug overuse has often whispered about over the years.

I've often found that drug testing is filled with authoritarian hypocrisy. In corporations how many CEOs, board members, high level executives are subjected to drug testing? Probably a big fat zero. The business lunch drinking still goes on, but if a lowly employee gets drug tested and has been found to be smoking marijuana off the job, then termination is highly possible. Our law makers institute drug testing laws, then don't have to submit to them.

So until the drug testing hypocrisy has been changed, I fully believe those DC politicians should be treated the same as the rest of us and that includes our president, vice president, and White House appointees.

Many of us have to be drug tested to get a job, why are politicians not required one when running for election? Why are political appointees able to avoid drug testing to get their appointment?


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