Letters from Agencies

2 minutes reading time (383 words)

Paruresis in the context of school drug testing: General letter from UKPA to various parties


I'm contacting you as Chairman of the charity the UK Paruresis Association, which supports men and women who find it difficult or impossible to urinate in public.

Our concern is not with the drug testing issue, but with the instruction to use urine testing. I don't think the DfEE realises that for a urine test to be effective against deception, it has to be witnessed i.e. the suspect has to urinate into a container in a way that allows an observer to see it happening, so that a safe sample cannot be substituted. The only way to avoid witnessing, is to do as the prison service allows, which is to strip the suspect to ensure no safe samples are hidden anywhere, and to allow the suspect privacy in a room that has no water supply. This is obviously not acceptable for school children.

Anecdotal evidence from a US armed forces officer responsible for urine testing suggests that only 30% of men have no difficulty providing a witnessed sample; 50% struggle to a greater or lesser degree but eventually succeed, and the remaining 20% of men cannot provide a sample in those conditions. This last group is then treated either as having something to hide, or to be in need of more fluid to be able to urinate. Unfortunately, if situational stress causes one to lock up, filling up with water does NOT make one urinate, it just causes pain. The suspect then has to be allowed to relieve himself somewhere private, or has to be catheterised. If parents were aware of this, they would be unlikely to agree to urine testing for their children.

Our concern as a charity is that we have substantial anecdotal information that a single stressful event such as being bullied in a school toilet can initiate the social phobic condition known as Avoidant Paruresis. Demanding a witnessed urine sample could easily have the same effect.

Bear in mind also that a survey among 10-12 year olds, has shown that 50% of boys and 30% of girls avoid using school toilets altogether, which suggests the whole issue is a difficult one for youngsters to deal with.

We are urging the Government to remove urine testing from its guidelines, especially when there are other non-invasive methods available, such as saliva or hair testing.

Andrew Smith
Chairman UKPA

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Thursday, 18 July 2024

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