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The University of Pretoria hosts seminar on detection of drug abuse and usage

By Gilbert Mokwatedi

Posted on 21 November 2008

Dr Tim Laurens, co-ordinator of the seminar
Dr Tim Laurens, co-ordinator of the seminar

Representatives of schools from across Pretoria and neighbouring areas, law enforcement agencies, other government departments, non-governmental organisations and private sector gathered at the University of Pretoria on Thursday, 20 November, to discuss drug usage and abuse among the youth and adults.
The University of Pretoria hosted and presented a half-day seminar on the “Detection of Drugs-of-Abuse in South-African Youth”.   The event took place at the Sanlam Auditorium of the Economic and Management Sciences Building (on the Hatfield Campus of the University). 

About 130 people attended the event.  The target audience for the seminar were people in a responsible position who required more information on the detection of drugs-of-abuse in humans.  Those who attended represented various levels of society dealing with drug usage and abuse and related cases, e.g. schools, the National Prosecuting Authority, courts, clinics, alcohol and drug abuse centres, pathologists, social workers, media, etc.  The majority of those who attended were representatives of schools.

The seminar was aimed at providing information and guidelines on the following aspects: the identification of drug abusers, medico-legal and ethical aspects of testing for illegal compounds in humans, the correct and legally defensible urine sampling protocol and testing procedure, the laboratory testing process and procedure, and follow-up process and support to drug abusers and their families.

Some of the speakers at the seminar were Mr Schroder – Principal of the Pretoria Boys High School; Advocate Johan Ströh (SC); Dr Tim Laurens and Mr Adriaan Marais – both from the Department of Chemistry, University of Pretoria; Mr Pierre Mondriaan - Chairperson of Operational Committee, Hatfield Community Court; Ms Erna Pieterse and Ms Rehona Nel – Social worker/Probation officers of Hatfield Community Court; and Mr Jacques Botes - Social worker from the Stabilis Treatment Centre.    

They covered the following topics:

  • a school perspective on drug testing in learners;
  • medico-legal aspects of drug screening in minors;
  • approach to legally defensible urine sampling;
  • perspectives on urine drug analysis, reporting and interpretation;
  • drugs and the Hatfield Community Court;
  • social assistance on youth and parents;
  • rehabilitation of drug abuser.

Dr Tim Laurens, organiser of the seminar, believes that the event contributed towards the education of persons in responsible positions as far as the testing process and procedures are concerned. Education is certainly one of the means to counter a problem such as drug abuse.

The abuse of illegal compounds has taken on epidemiological proportions in our society and needs to be addressed in an ethically correct, socially responsible and legally defensible manner,” said Dr Laurens , who is also the Technical Director of the Forensic Division at the University’s Department of Chemistry.

 The University of Pretoria currently runs a drug-testing laboratory.  According to Dr Laurens, drug-abuse problem should be tackled from both the hard drugs side as well as the detection of drugs in urine after use.

“We are free to perform the testing of drugs-of-abuse in humans provided that it will take place in an ethically correct, socially responsible and legally defensible manner. It is the intention that the seminar will address exactly these issues,” he reiterated.

Resources:
Government Gazette extract on devices and processes for drug testing
Information brochure on forensic analysis of drugs of abuse 
Information brochure on Confirmatory Testing 
Example of protocol for urine sample



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