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Drug Testing

Many effective treatment programs for substance use disorders (SUDs) involve some form of drug testing, most commonly in the form of a urine sample. Drug testing can provide evidence that an individual is using substances. However, 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 an SUD. While testing is an important component of the initial assessment process for potential diagnosis of an SUD, drug testing is also used to monitor substance use during or after treatment. When used for monitoring, ASAM recommends implementing random drug testing, rather than regularly scheduled tests.

Some rural SUD treatment programs may choose, or may be required, to administer drug testing to participants in order to make an SUD diagnosis or track their progress through treatment. For SUD programs that include drug testing, ASAM suggests that healthcare providers 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 an SUD, it is important to maintain privacy and confidentiality with regard to drug testing. Healthcare providers and other healthcare professionals should use drug testing for medical purposes only, and they should 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

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. Describes the methods for collecting and analyzing specimens from drug tests. Discusses the negative aspects of placing arbitrary restrictions and reimbursements on drug tests.
Organization: American Society of Addiction Medicine
Date: 2010