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Drug Testing

Many effective treatment programs for substance use disorders involve some form of drug testing, most commonly in the form of urine drug testing. Drug testing can provide evidence that an individual is using substances, but the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) emphasizes that evidence of substance use alone through testing or other means is not sufficient to determine whether or not an individual has a substance use disorder. While testing is an important component of the initial assessment process for potential diagnosis of a substance use disorder, drug testing is also used to monitor substance use during or after active treatment. When used for monitoring, ASAM recommends implementing random drug testing for people, rather than regularly scheduled tests.

It is important for healthcare providers to explain to patients why drug testing is important for their care and obtain informed consent from the patient. The informed consent form should include an explanation of why drug testing is crucial to the patient's overall treatment plan. As with other aspects of treatment for a substance use disorder, it is important to maintain privacy and confidentiality with regard to drug testing. Primary care providers and other healthcare professionals should use drug testing for medical purposes only, and only provide test results to law enforcement or other governmental authorities under court order or with the permission of the patient.

Resources to Learn More

Drug Testing: A White Paper of the American Society of Addiction Medicine
Describes the use of drug testing as a primary prevention, diagnostic, and monitoring tool for identifying both use of harmful substances as well as proper use of therapeutic substances in a variety of settings, including primary care and addiction treatment. Various methods of drug testing are also described.
Organization: American Society of Addiction Medicine
Date: 10/2013

Public Policy Statement on Drug Testing as a Component of Addiction Treatment and Monitoring Programs and in other Clinical Settings
Explains the practice and importance of drug testing, and provides recommendations for the use of drug testing in substance use monitoring and diagnostic and addiction treatment settings. Also discusses methods for collecting and analyzing specimens from drug tests. Recommends against placing arbitrary limits on reimbursement for tests and the frequency and number of drug tests.
Organization: American Society of Addiction Medicine