Cold medicine might have affected the drug tests of eight service personnel at Ching Chuan Kang Air Base in Taichung, causing them to test positive for morphine use, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday.
Base-wide drug screening was carried out following the discovery of 53 packages of amphetamines and ketamine on the base last week.
Eight base personnel reportedly tested positive for Category 1 narcotics, which include morphine, heroin and opium, none of which were found at the base.
Cold medicines containing codeine, an opiate, might have caused a positive result of morphine because the metabolites of the two substances are similar, ministry Medical Affairs Bureau Director Wu Yi-chang (吳怡昌) told lawmakers on the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
There were only trace amounts of the metabolites in the eight subject’s systems, suggesting that the test result might have been caused by the ingestion of cold medicines, Wu said.
However, it would be up to the judicial system rather than the hospital to determine the nature of the substances, Wu said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) criticized the ministry for trying to explain the drug test results before judicial authorities have reached a conclusion, as it might help the eight — if they had taken Catergory 1 narcotics — fabricate evidence.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) said she had received tip-offs from military sources that the drugs had been planted on the base to frame the base’s director, Major General Wang Te-yang (王德揚), amid an escalating dispute between Wang and a low-ranking officer surnamed Huang (黃).
However, Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) said Wang and Huang were on good terms and there was no defamation plot linked to the case.
Prosecutors are reviewing footage from surveillance cameras on the base to see if anyone can be spotted leaving the drugs, he said.
The ministry also said drug abuse prevention efforts are working, noting that a total of 1.05 million urine samples were collected from military personnel last year for testing and only 0.08 percent of personnel tested positive.
The percentage of military personnel testing positive for drugs is lower than other groups in society, the defense ministry said, noting that drug tests conducted by the Ministry of Education in 2015 found 4.66 percent of students tested positive for drugs.
Newly enlisted conscripts have the highest rate of positive drug tests, with an average of 0.16 percent of conscripts having tested positive for drug use over the past three years, the defense ministry said.