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Number of drug tests carried out on employees doubles

A researcher with LSI Medience Corp. inspects a drug test specimen in the company's laboratory in Tokyo's Itabashi Ward. (Mainichi)

Hoping to prevent incidents of employee drug use before they happen, the number of companies holding seminars on the painful realities of illegal drug use -- and conducting unannounced drug use tests -- is presently on the rise.

    According to a professional organization that was commissioned to administer such tests, the number of the examinations has doubled over the past 10 years.

    Such prevention measures for the problem are taking place within the entertainment industry, where some high-profile figures have recently been detained on drug-related charges. These include former professional baseball player Kazuhiro Kiyohara, 48, whose trial began at the Tokyo District Court on May 17 following his arrest and prosecution.

    This year in February, the Yoshimoto Creative Agency talent company held an emergency seminar on issues related to illegal drugs for its 450-some registered celebrities and staff members.

    Participants watched a video explaining the serious effects of stimulant drugs upon the body, and also listened to a lecture from an investigator with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

    "Networks within the entertainment industry are broad-reaching, and people should have a sense of danger with respect to the possibility of being offered illegal drugs," noted a representative from the company, which began stepping up anti-drug efforts several years ago.

    The official added, "We plan to make efforts in terms of preventative measures (in this regard)."

    Meanwhile, Titan -- the talent agency with which popular comedy duo Bakusho Mondai is registered -- has begun conducting unannounced drug tests on all of its employees.

    According to Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo-based LSI Medience Corp. -- the country's sole existing organization tasked with carrying out studies of drug abuse within the private sector -- the number of drug tests it was commissioned to conduct during the last fiscal year rose to several tens of thousands, which is around twice the figure from 2006.

    A large number of firms involved in work that is directly connected with passengers' lives -- including transportation and shipping companies such as railway, bus, airline and ship-related companies -- have requested the tests, LSI Medience officials said.

    In many notable cases, however, companies order all of their employees to be tested for drugs only following an arrest of someone from the firm -- with no follow-up action taken.

    "Testing is meaningless when it has been conducted only for the purpose of showing the public that some kind of purification ritual has been exercised," emphasizes Shuji Saito, who heads LSI Medience Corp.'s department of special drug analysis. "The testing should be conducted with an eye toward prevention."

    Companies in numerous industries carry out the testing in the United States, such as foodstuff corporations and other service-related businesses. At one major testing company, more than 9 million requests for the tests are received yearly.

    The idea is widely accepted in the U.S. that testing conducted on a regular basis prevents drug-related incidents -- and also leads to early detection and aftercare.

    In Japan, more than 10,000 individuals are arrested or reported to prosecutors yearly following drug-related scandals.

    "There is also the issue of privacy, and it's important to consult with professionals before undergoing the tests," notes Sakae Komori, a lawyer who is an expert on drug-related issues. "But periodic testing is huge in terms of its prevention-related effects."

    He adds, "A framework needs to be devised that prevents drug abuse within society on the whole."

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