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E38: Substance Abuse and Family Law

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This month Ben and Heather talk to toxicologist and forensic medicine specialist Professor Edward Ogden about substance abuse and family law.  Professor Ogden has been studying the impact of drugs and alcohol for over 40 years.  He is Deputy Director of the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University, Addiction Medicine Specialist for Goulburn Valley Health and St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne and a forensic medical consultant with Clinical Forensic Medicine.

Professor Ogden shares his experience and knowledge on the impacts of drug and alcohol misuse and methods of testing.  He and Heather McKinnon also discuss why drug and alcohol misuse if a concern in family law cases and how the Court deals with substance abuse claims.

The show deals with the following areas:

  • The science of toxicology.
  • The most common drugs affecting our community.
  • Why people abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • The relevance of substance abuse in family law matters.
  • How the Family Court deals with substance abuse allegations.
  • Types of testing used to measure drug abuse, including:
    • Urine and breath tests
    • Carbohydrate Deficiency Transfer (CDT) test
    • Hair testing
  • Possible means of contaminating drug tests, including:
    • Shaving or using hair dyes before a hair test
    • Claiming the drug got into your system from the environment
    • Claiming your prescription drug was mistaken for an illicit substance
    • Drinking large amounts of water before a urine test

Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Forensic Medical Consultants  Professor Edward Ogden is the principal consultant for this organisation which provides expert opinions and legal testimony in Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Singapor.

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Full Episode Transcript

Welcome!  Substance Abuse & Family Law

Benjamin Bryant: Welcome to episode 38 of our podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Bryant from Bryant McKinnon Lawyers, coming to you from our office recording studio where I am joined by my partner in crime, Heather McKinnon. In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about drug and alcohol abuse. It’s a tough topic, Heather. Are you ready to take it on?

Heather McKinnon: You bet. It’s a tough topic, but every file involving families usually has this as part of it, and particularly in our independent children’s lawyers files, where it’s a huge problem in Australia.

Benjamin Bryant: So very true, which is why we’ve brought in a formidable expert as our guest for today’s podcast. Professor Edward Ogden is an addiction medicine specialist at St Vincent Hospital in Melbourne and Goulburn Valley Health Service in Shepparton. And the Deputy Director of Addiction and Forensic Medicine at Swinburne University’s Centre for Human Psychopharmacology. He is also a principal consultant at Forensic Medical Consultants, providing expert evidence about alcohol and drug impairment to the courts in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Welcome to our little podcast, Professor Ogden. We’re honoured to have you with us.

Prof Edward Ogden: Thanks, Ben. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Benjamin Bryant: And I want to dive right in. But just before we do that, I need to do my usual little reminder to our listeners to share this show with friends and family who may be starting down the path of separation or divorce. We’ve built up a huge library on a wide range of subjects featuring some world class experts. So please help your friends and family by sharing this fantastic resource. And now on with today’s show.

How did you become involved in the study of alcohol and drug abuse?

Benjamin Bryant: Professor Ogden, let’s start by talking about you. You have been providing expert opinions to the court on the impacts of drug and alcohol abuse for almost 30 years. How did you get involved in this type of work?

Prof Edward Ogden: I wish it was only 30 years. It’s getting closer to 45.

Benjamin Bryant: Indeed.

Prof Edward Ogden: I got involved because right back at the beginning of my career, my mentor got me involved in forensic medicine. That is the application of clinical medicine to the law. And by its very nature, increasingly there have been cases which involve the impact of alcohol or other drugs. Then when I moved into police headquarters full time in the late eighties, I found myself giving evidence on behalf of the prosecution on the effects of alcohol and other drugs on driving. And so, I gradually developed some expertise in the field, I guess.

What is the science of toxicology?

Benjamin Bryant: You certainly did. And can you give us a general overview about what the science of toxicology actually is?

Prof Edward Ogden: Well, it is surprisingly what it sounds like. Toxic as in poisonous. And it’s the study of poisons. So, what do poisonous substances do to the human body? And the whole of toxicology, of course, includes toxic substances that cause death. I’m really more interested in the effects of drugs and alcohol, the things that people deliberately take to change the way they feel.

Benjamin Bryant: That’s right. I know Heather and I have our family law blinkers on. We have an idea of what toxicology is or may be, but it’s not until you get home and you read a good crime fiction or something like that that you can realise what toxicology can be.

Prof Edward Ogden: Of course. And it involves famous cases of kings and queens being poisoned with various plants other toxic things like strychnine and heavy metals. Toxicology itself is a very broad field, but I limit myself to the things that people take deliberately.

What are the most common substances that affect the community?

Benjamin Bryant:  And there are a lot of illicit drugs out there. What are the most common substances that affect our community? And over the course of your 45 years, has there been any trends in any type of the drugs or use of drugs?

Prof Edward Ogden: Well, I think the very obvious thing to say up front is that THE drug of concern in our community is alcohol. It’s legal, it’s widely available, and there’s a subset of the community who drink far more than is good for them. And without question, it is the drug that causes the most concern. Then there have been changes over time, I guess. Cannabis is used by a substantial subset of the community and it’s changed over time. When I was a medical student good cannabis was 2.5% THC. Now hydroponically grown, genetically selected material. There are strains which are producing 20% so it’s a much more potent drug than it used to be. And we’re seeing the consequences of that with drug induced psychosis and so on. So I guess cannabis would be number two. And then there’s the whole range of things that people use in the party scene and personally. So I guess it used to be speed. It used to be amphetamine, but these days it’s methamphetamine. Australia probably infamously, maybe the highest per capita user of methamphetamine in the world. And it’s a much nastier drug than amphetamine. So it features a lot in I guess, particularly in my hospital practice because it’s associated with drug induced psychosis and behavioural change. And then of course, there’s the whole range of things that people play with. Ecstasy (MDMA), psilocybin (magic mushrooms) are pretty topical at the moment. But there’s an endless range of chemicals that are of interest to people who like playing with how their brain feels Some of which are more nasty, more toxic than others.

Benjamin Bryant: And Professor, one of the things that interests me is that they have a lot of information out there and also how to evade drug testing, you know, try and do different things. They have a lot of information on there, but also there’s a lot of people that are completely naive. They have no idea. They’ve never suspected it. They’ve never been exposed to it. They don’t know the different classes of drugs. They don’t know their effects. They know, I guess, what is legal or what is not legal.

Prof Edward Ogden: So you’re right. I mean, there are. I have people who come in and think they’re going to teach me about the pharmacology and toxicology of the substances they use because they claim to have this vast personal knowledge. And of course, the other confounder in all this is that, particularly the illicit substances, are traded in what is clearly an illicit market and you don’t necessarily know what you’re buying. It’s a very unscrupulous market. And you might think that you’re buying heroin, but in fact what you might get is low grade heroin or mostly some innocuous substance and a fair bit of fentanyl, which is 100 times as potent. So it’s a vexed area. And some people think that they know, but of course, they don’t necessarily know what they’re buying.

Why do people abuse drugs and alcohol?

Benjamin Bryant: Yeah, that’s right. And I conjure up images of bathtubs and stuff again, probably from crime fiction movies or something like that. People cooking up things in all sorts of precarious places. And so, of course, that begs the question, Why do people do it?

Prof Edward Ogden:  I think it’s the fundamental question. When I see a new patient, my first question to them is, why do you do this? What does it do for you? People don’t use drugs usually because somebody made them. They use drugs because there is some benefit to them, even if it’s only avoiding withdrawal. But there’s always a payoff for the individual. People use drugs because they get some personal benefit. And that’s actually a really important thing to understand, because it may be that if you deal with the underlying reason, then the drug use just disappears. And at its simplest, I had a man referred to me for his alcohol misuse disorder. But when I said to him, “So tell me about your use of alcohol.” He said, “Oh, I don’t drink. Oh well, I have to have two stubbies to pick the kids up from school and three stubbies to go to the bank and four stubbies to deal with Centrelink, but otherwise I don’t drink.” So his issue in fact was his social anxiety.

Benjamin Bryant: And probably four stubbies before speaking with you.

Prof Edward Ogden: He had several stubbies before coming to the appointment. That’s right. And so I think that’s why it’s really important to understand where does this drug fit into this person’s life. It may be some young person who says, if I take MDMA, I can enjoy the rave more. And that’s a very different situation from someone who says, if I don’t have a drink of alcohol, when I get out of bed in the morning, I get the shakes and I have a terrible day.

Benjamin Bryant: Can’t function.

Prof Edward Ogden:  You can’t just generalise and say there’s one picture.

Why is drug and alcohol abuse relevant in a family law context?

Benjamin Bryant: Certainly. And I think what you said, Edward, about what is the underlying problem or issue is a great segue to my question for Heather. Why is drug or alcohol abuse by a parent relevant in a family law context?

Heather McKinnon: Well, I suppose even after 40 odd years in working in the field, my wish for every child in Australia is that they have a calm, emotionally-available parent. And the problem in drug and alcohol misuse is that if you’re trying to parent with that sort of substance abuse problem, that your ability to be emotionally present for the child is often really impaired. And then we get to the more insidious symptoms of drug misuse, and that’s mood disturbance. So if I’m working in a case with little toddlers, I mean, their job is to push parents buttons, to see whether the parent will always be there for them, always protect them. And the problem when you have someone coming off a bender is that if a child pushes a button, then all hell breaks loose. So I think primarily we’re looking at mood disturbance. Is this parent safe enough to be around the child when their brain is impaired by whatever substance they’re ingesting? And that’s where we rely on people like Ed to help us understand: what is the level of misuse in this particular individual? What does that mean in terms of their ability to respond to a child? And, you know, it’s really interesting. Obviously, for babies it’s life threatening, for adolescents living in a household with an alcoholic, it’s about their emotional and psychological safety. So you and I have been have got to be across every stage of child development and what happens if they’re in contact with a parent who’s optimism is not acting optimally. So that’s the guts of it. The guts of it is, what’s the impact on this kid if this parent is off their nut?

Prof Edward Ogden: That’s only one side of it, isn’t it, that you’re talking about the intoxication. But the nature of true addiction is that finding the next dose of whatever it is becomes the critical part of life. And so if you’re spending your whole life sourcing ongoing supply of drugs, children are going to be ignored and neglected. So that you’ve got multiple sides to this. One is you’ve got the implications of intoxication, but you’ve also got the preoccupation with ongoing supply, which by its nature probably equates to neglect, because all your energy is going elsewhere.

Heather McKinnon: And that bottom line. What is the emotional availability of the parent to the little one? And that’s where it gets so difficult because we have to look at the child’s needs and are they being prioritised in the household? And that’s exactly the life that you’re describing for a lot of little ones. Their parent is not prioritising their needs and as you said, it’s all about what causes the substance abuse disorder. Why did this adult get to that stage and is there a way of making the environment safer for the child?

Prof Edward Ogden: I think that’s why that question about why the person is using becomes the critical one. Because if the patient is misusing a substance because they’re self-medicating, then let’s look at is there a better medication, a better treatment, for the underlying problem, whatever it might be.

How does the Court respond to an allegation of substance abuse?

Benjamin Bryant: Heather, if a parent makes an allegation of drug or alcohol abuse, how does the court usually respond?

Heather McKinnon: Well, it’s all about that forensic expert advice. So there’s a whole range of things that a court can do. So, we might start with, hair strand tests to see what’s been going on. A psychiatric assessment. In regional Australia, we have a whole lot of people self-medicating because they don’t have access to good mental health diagnosis. So, you’ll find that you’ve got a young father who’s, eventually diagnosed with something like ADHD. And immediately he gets prescription medication, you see a change in his functioning. There might be a misdiagnosis of depression when there’s something more serious there in terms of mental illness that can respond to proper treatment. It’s really complex, but the first step is getting a diagnosis. And that’s I suppose our job when we’re acting for kids is to really get all of that history of mum and dad from medical records and that and have a look back at what the quality of their treatment’s been and then bring in people like Professor Ogden to look at, okay, what have we got here. Can we help this parent to be a better parent? What would they have to do to improve their functioning? So I think diagnosis is the first step. And once you’ve got that, then you can start to look at whether or not there’s a responsive treatment available.

Prof Edward Ogden: Yeah, I think that’s really important.

Benjamin Bryant:  And I think Heather, I think it’s fair to say as well, certainly in the initial stages that the investigating by the court is that – it’s an investigation process. In a parenting matter, of course, we’re here for the best interests of children. It is not about punishment. It is not about, removing the children from the other parent or saying that they’re bad parents, because a lot of people say, here goes this allegation again, or if I have a positive result, that means I’m going to lose my kids. It’s an investigation, it’s an assessment as part of the best interest principle. And the court proceeds on that basis.

Are there illicit drugs for which there is no test?

Benjamin Bryant: Professor. So the court has now ordered drug testing. Let’s find more about how that works. And first of all, are there any illicit drugs that cannot be tested for.

Prof Edward Ogden: In general, most drugs can be tested for in some matrix. The question is where to look and how you look. If you want to know about impairment right now, then you need to test the levels of drug present at the time. So that would be alcohol in breath, alcohol in urine. For most other substances, other matrices are used. Urine testing will tell you something about what’s been taken in the last day or so. With perhaps the exception of cannabis, which is detectable for weeks. And then of course, there’s the matrix which is often preferred when thinking about abstinence is hair testing. Hair grows at about a centimetre a month. And so if you’ve got a three centimetre length of hair, you’re able to look back at drug use in the last three months.

Benjamin Bryant: Hmm. And this is the interesting bit, I must say, Professor, because there’s a lot of practitioners out there, there’s a lot of clients and members of the community, and I can assure you there’s a lot of judicial officers out there as well that are not across this. So it’s really important, I think, information for our listeners, but also the community. And certainly when I was (I haven’t been practising for 45 years, but in my short career) certainly when I first started it was drug, urinalysis and breathalysers. We had breathalysers at changeovers. And now it is more sophisticated with hair drug testing and carbohydrate deficiency transfer and testing, CDT testing, which is common certainly in this area. I’m not sure in all areas, but certainly in this area that’s what’s common.

What is a Carbohydrate Deficiency Transfer (CDT) test?

Benjamin Bryant: So I just wanted to ask a few questions about that. Professor, if I may. Can you explain to our listeners what a CD test actually is and what is it measuring?

Prof Edward Ogden: It’s one of those sort of strange tests that it was discovered almost accidentally that when large molecules like haemoglobin are put together, a bit of carbohydrate gets trapped in the molecule. And it turns out that when people drink a lot of alcohol, there is less carbohydrate trapped. And so when you do the test, they’re carbohydrate deficient. And that means that there’s some evidence that the person’s been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. It’s not really specific. You can’t say if you drink five standard drinks a day, you’ll get this, or if you drink seven standard drinks, you’ll get something else. But what it does mean is that if the CDT is raised that during the last six weeks before the blood test, the person’s been drinking excessively. With that being a subjective statement.

Benjamin Bryant: That’s exactly right. I heard you being very careful with your language and for good reason, Professor. Which brings me to the next question. You’ve half answered it. Many times I’ve got a CDT test, the client has provided it to me, and I’m like, “Great, now what?” How do we interpret them? What does it mean? What does excessive drinking mean? What are we looking for?

Prof Edward Ogden: Well, I think that’s exactly the problem, is that we don’t know the answer to that. I think that if you’ve got someone whose alcohol consumption is at the sorts of levels that the National Health and Medical Research Council would say was safe, that is, for a male less than two standard drinks a day on average and less than ten standard drinks a week, then the CDT is likely to be normal. If somebody is drinking ten or 12 standard drinks a day, then the CDT is likely to be abnormal. But you can’t turn around and say, “Well, I know exactly what this means.” If somebody has been drinking to excess the CDT will be up. If that’s an issue before the court, then it would be reasonable to require the person to drink in a way that the CDT goes down. For example, I’ve had an airline pilot who had a raised CDT. There was never a question about whether or not his alcohol consumption affected his ability to fly. But the Civil Aviation Administration required that his CDT return to normal so that his pattern of alcohol use showed safe activity all the time.

What is a hair drug test?

Benjamin Bryant: Yes. I always wonder what my CDT test results would be, Professor. And can you explain to our listeners what a hair drug test actually is and what’s it measuring and how much hair are they taking for this?

Prof Edward Ogden: Well, it’s been known since the 1850s that some toxic substances actually get incorporated into hair. It was known back then that strychnine and lead could be extracted from hair if someone was being poisoned. So the knowledge that drugs get into incorporated hair is not new. What is new is the technology that allows the measurement of the extraordinarily small amounts of drugs that get incorporated into hair. So as I said, hair grows at about a centimetre a month. And so depending on how much hair you’ve got, depends on how far back you can look. But typically, a little sample of hair is taken from the back of the head, usually about the diameter of a pencil. It’s snipped off. It’s not pulled out by the roots, which some people seem to be worried about. And then it’s subject to testing. If you’re really fussed about someone’s drug use, you could cut it up into one centimetre lengths and see what happened each month the last few months. And they’re capable of measuring most substances that we’re interested in. It just gives you an idea of the accuracy of this. The results are expressed in picograms per milligram of hair. So a milligram of hair is 1,000th of a gram and a pic0gram is a million millionths of a gram. So we’re measuring vanishingly small amounts of drug in fairly small amounts of hair. And whilst there are no Australian standards, the Society of Hair Testing, which is obviously a fairly exclusive little body, has in fact made recommendations about how to interpret a whole range of substances in hair samples. And obviously there’s a limited number of laboratories who have the expertise to measure these vanishingly small amounts of drug in little bits of hair.

Can you do a hair test on any body hair?

Benjamin Bryant: And Professor, it’s not just head hair, is it? Testing can happen on any hair from the body. Pubic hair or leg hair.

Prof Edward Ogden: Yeah, you could even use fingernails on toenails, except that you don’t tend to pull them out and…

Benjamin Bryant: Except you’re going back to the old stories with the royals or something or some torture chamber.

Prof Edward Ogden: I guess, you know, post mortem, you could certainly do that. Yes, certainly, we know a little less about the rate of growth of hair in the pubic area or the armpits or body hair, but it probably grows at about half the rate. And look, I’ve had the situation where somebody was ordered to have hair testing and they turned up for the for the hair test with not a hair on their body. They were totally depilated – everything. Not just their head, their whole of their body: their armpits, their pubes, their eyelashes, their eyebrows. There was not a hair to be found. Which one could draw an adverse inference from.

Benjamin Bryant: I think everyone does. But for testing purposes, forensic for court, is it effective to use, for example, use leg hair if there’s no hair on the head?

Prof Edward Ogden: Oh, absolutely. And you know, I’ve had situations where people have used chest hair or auxiliary hair: armpit hair, pubic hair. What you can’t do with the same sort of certainty is to say, “I know what this means in terms of time.” But clearly, if somebody said, for instance, that they’d never use methamphetamine and it was present in hair, that would leave them with some questions to answer. You might have more difficulty saying when the exposure occurred.

What can you tell from a drug test?

Benjamin Bryant: Yes. And I think that brings me to my next question as well. I know from experience of using your expertise in some of my matters, Professor, I know that a drug test result you can get you can interpret more from it than just positive or negative. I know that, for example, what a drug perhaps is consumed with changes how it’s metabolised and whether you can determine whether it’s just a one off binge or whether it’s a history of longstanding use of something, it’s more than just positive or negative.

Prof Edward Ogden: Absolutely. And, some of the metabolites are interesting so that, for instance, if somebody’s been using cocaine whilst drinking alcohol, that produces a metabolite that doesn’t otherwise exist. And so, not only can you say, look, this isn’t accidentally exposed to a bit of cocaine powder that got onto the hair somehow, but the cocaine has actually been metabolised and it’s been metabolised when the person was drinking alcohol.

Can you avoid or contaminate a drug test with shaving or hair dyes?

Benjamin Bryant: And I think that’s a great segue Professor to get into some common questions that Heather and I get and try and dispel some myths. First one is shaving or dying your head hair an effective way to avoid or contaminate hair drug testing?

Prof Edward Ogden: Well, obviously, shaving it means there isn’t any to use. and that like I mentioned before, it raises questions about whether hair went and why. The question of changing hair colour is interesting. Some drugs actually stick better to melanin, the dark pigment in the hair. And so you may get higher levels of some drugs in someone who is dark skinned or dark haired compared to a natural blonde. But that’s something that can be taken into account in the interpretation. There has been a significant amount of work done on: do hair treatments change drug levels? And obviously to some extent, yes, you can extract some of the drug from the hair, but you don’t get rid of all of it. There’s no magic treatment that allows you to turn up and say, “See, I don’t have any drug in my hair.” And in fact, you’re a drug user. You might be able to change the levels, but not the presence.

Can you test positive with actually consuming the drug itself?

Benjamin Bryant: I’m sure some people are hearing that. Professor. Is it possible to be around someone using illicit substances and for it to get into your system in a detectable quantity without actually consuming the drug itself? A common one is, of course, marijuana. “I didn’t smoke any pot by the person next to me may have.”

Prof Edward Ogden: Obviously. And look, there’ve been several studies where people have done all sorts of things. They’ve put heavy marijuana smokers in a confined space like a cabin of a car. And there have been studies of the levels of cannabis products in the urine of people sitting in a coffee shop in Amsterdam where they’re surrounded by cannabis smokers. And the simple answer is, yes, in the case of THC, you can get small quantities in urine for a very short time. They’re very low levels and they’re not there for long. The classic studies actually come out of the United States. 100% of American banknotes are contaminated with cocaine, or nearly 100%. And it’s probably because if you’ve ever handled American money, you know, it’s got that sort of nasty, greasy, it always feels dirty. And it’s because of the nature of the ink they use on a cotton-based paper.

Benjamin Bryant: I thought you’re going to say, because it’s the cocaine.

Prof Edward Ogden: No. Well, that might be true too. But it means that cocaine for some reason sticks particularly well to American banknotes. No one’s done that study on Australian notes, but you would have thought with our polyester notes, it probably doesn’t stick very well. And so that raises the question, certainly in the States, of whether you could get a positive drug test just by handling money or being around people. And there are some great studies. There was one where bank tellers were handling money. They were asked to handle the money for 4 hours without washing their hands. And they all had no detectable cocaine in any part of their body. And even more surprising, in some ways, officers working in border protection who’ve handled packages of cocaine, who have used the incredibly sophisticated toxicological technique of sticking their finger in it and tasting it, or who’ve driven vehicles which had been used as cocaine transport, and none of them came up with positive tests. So I think it’s pretty far-fetched to say, look, I’ve got this positive test, but it’s not me. Look, there are some tests of children who have grown up in houses which were meth labs. And they, in fact, do have low levels of meth in hair and urine You’d have to be surrounded by vast quantities all the time. So if you’re living in a meth lab, then maybe you’d end up with a positive test passively.

Can prescription medications (like Ritalin) be mistaken for illicit drugs?

Benjamin Bryant: And Professor, something we haven’t touched on yet is prescription medication. Of course, using that inappropriately or if it’s not prescribed to you. Is it possible for some prescription medications to be wrongfully interpreted as an illicit substance? For example, can someone’s Ritalin medication be a valid explanation for having methamphetamine in their system?

Prof Edward Ogden: No. Ritalin’s methylphenidate. It’s not methamphetamine. And even the people who are taking dexamphetamine for the treatment of ADHD will not have methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is prescribed in the United States for the treatment of ADHD. And if that were the case, then maybe there would be some questions of interpretation of levels. But methamphetamine is not available legally in Australia for any purpose. And this technology is really accurate. You don’t get cross reaction between methylphenidate (Ritalin) and the amphetamines. They may be related, but they’re totally distinct chemicals and the laboratory can distinguish that.

Can you test for steroids?

Benjamin Bryant: And two more quick questions that I want to ask before I let you go, Professor, Can steroids be tested for?

Prof Edward Ogden: Yes.

Can you avoid a positive urine test result by drinking a lot of water?

Benjamin Bryant: And finally, can you drink lots of water to dilute a urine test to the point of no detection?

Prof Edward Ogden: Yes, you can. But there is an Australian standard for the testing and interpretation of urine. And one of the things that happens when the urine sample is first obtained is, the operator who collects it will test its temperature, so that it appears to be the right temperature to have actually come from a human body and not from somewhere else or borrowed from someone else. And amongst the tests is the specific gravity and the concentration of various chemicals that are naturally present in urine. So if the specific gravity is 1.000, it means it’s tap water. So you can look at a sample and say, this is exceptionally dilute. And there are ways of interpreting drug levels, taking that into account. So you take the dilution factor into account. Because I’ve given evidence in court in exactly that situation where someone had a positive urine test in the workplace, was immediately stood down, raced off and organised his own urine test that afternoon, which was shown as not positive. In other words, if there was cannabis present, it was below the level of reporting. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. There’s a threshold at which the laboratory says that it’s not negative, but the specific gravity was very close to water and the other things you expect to find in a urine sample were incredibly low and the suggestion was that he’d raced off and had three or four litres of water to try and produce a dilute urine. Which worked, I mean the level was below detection, but the urine didn’t look like normal human urine.

Benjamin Bryant: And didn’t get away with it.

Prof Edward Ogden: No, and Fair Work Australia was unimpressed.

Goodbye for now….

Benjamin Bryant:  Wow. What a cracker of a show. Professor Ogden, thank you so much for helping us to understand the whole world of drug testing and providing evidence to the courts on the impacts of drug or alcohol use and abuse.

Prof Edward Ogden: That’s my pleasure, Ben. It’s been fun.

Benjamin Bryant: It has been. And Heather, thank you, as always, for your insights into family law. I think today’s show is going to be a valuable resource for anyone that has drug or alcohol allegations in their matter.

Heather McKinnon: Yep. And I’ll be ringing Professor Ogden next time I get one of those cases.

Benjamin Bryant: And I think also a few of our colleagues will be as well.

Benjamin Bryant: So that’s a wrap for this episode. Next month we have our first return guest. We are delighted to have Elizabeth Shaw, CEO of Relationships Australia NSW, return for a second time. Her first show, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” is one of our most listened episodes. And next month she’s coming back to talk to us about coping with holidays after separation.

Benjamin Bryant: If you have specific questions or stories relating to the difficulties of holidays after separation, please send them to familymatters@bryantmckinnon.com.au or message us on Facebook and we’ll try to get your answers on the show. We’ll put links to any resources mentioned in today’s show and a full transcript in the show notes on our website. And don’t forget, please share this show with family and friends who may benefit. Goodbye for now and we hope to have your ears again next month.

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