This Gun May Help Shoot Down Drug Use On The Job

Companies have a new weapon in the war on drugs at work. Thermedics Inc. and Pinkerton Security & Investigation Services have teamed up to market a new narcotics-detection service to comb commercial and industrial workspaces for evidence of illegal drug use.

The service will use the $165,000 Thermedics Sentor drug-sniffing system, which can identify airborne traces of cocaine, heroine, or methamphetamine ("speed"). Sentor's hand-held sampling gun draws in air from the environment where drug use is suspected. The gun is then placed in a portable unit that analyzes its contents. Within 30 seconds, the system can identify drug traces as small as a few parts per billion. Since it doesn't rely on human interpretation of the results, false alarms are less than 1%. While the process can't tell who uses drugs, it might flag a drug-use problem among groups of employees, says Thermedics President John W. Wood Jr. Pinkerton will be ready to deliver the service in 1992.