A drug test is a simple process; however, the steps leading up to it can be extremely challenging for concerned individuals who want a suspected substance abuser to take a test. In order for a loved one to accurately evaluate her suspicion, she will need to know the signs of drug abuse. Although side effects of drugs can vary based on the drug abused, physical and mental addiction will impact behaviors. Addiction may cause the user to:
- Experience work or school problems
- Have physical impairments
- Display a failure to take care of his appearance
- Experience changes in mood or behaviors
- Deplete financial resources
Once a concerned individual feels that substance abuse is likely occurring, the next – and major – issue will be how to broach the topic of drug testing. At this point, the interpersonal relationship between the concerned person and the suspected substance abuser is highly relevant. For instance, parents of minor children or adults living under the same roof and employers are in positions of authority, which give them some leverage in the conversation. But parents of adults living away from home or spouses may have a tougher time.
What Can Be Tested
As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains, effective at-home drug tests exist (although an employer will likely have the employee tested at an off-site laboratory). These tests are generally accurate and involve two steps: the initial test, and in the event of a positive result, the option to send the urine sample to a laboratory, which will be able to determine the type of drug abused. A home-use test is usually sensitive to the presence of the following drugs:
|· Marijuana||· Opiates|
|· Cocaine||· Methamphetamine|
|· PCP||· Amphetamines|
|· Benzodiazepines||· Barbiturates|
|· Methadone||· Tricyclic antidepressants|
|· Oxycodone||· Ecstasy|
Secret drug tests are sometimes used; however, there is controversy surrounding them as they can compromise trust in relationships. The least invasive way to do a secret drug test is to do a surface substance testing screen. Drug use often leaves behind a residue, and this residue can be tested. A far more invasive method is to take a hair sample. In addition to surfaces/residue and hair, drug tests are also sensitive to saliva, sweat, blood and breath (for alcohol).
Ultimately, the concerned person will have to look at the totality of the circumstances and do a balancing test, factoring in their personal beliefs, the suspected substance abuser’s privacy, and whether any alternatives (like a voluntary test) exist.
In-Treatment and Post-Treatment Testing
Periodic testing is often a necessary reality of rehab. The initial tests during intake also serve as diagnostic tools, to help addiction specialists to tailor a rehab program to the client’s needs. At any time, testing may be observed to ensure that no deceptive methods are used to alter the test results. Testing may occur daily, or randomly.
To the extent that a rehab center does not offer a schedule of testing, clients are advised to understand that the randomness of drug testing is part of the effort to get the most accurate results possible.
Continued Drug Testing
An aftercare regimen is a critical component of an abstinence maintenance program. Options for aftercare include residence in a sober living house, joining an outpatient program, and attending individual and group counseling. Residential and outpatient programs will continue to conduct drug tests to ensure that abstinence is being maintained and to complement an appropriate course of therapy.
Once a substance user has attained sobriety, she may feel resentful at having to continue to submit to drug tests; however, it can be lifesaving to do so. It is well documented that many overdoses occur when a person has been abstinent for a time and then resumes use (most often defaulting to the familiar dosage, which may now be a lethal amount). For post-rehab care providers, it is essential to test for drug use and to adjust treatment as necessary.
An ongoing benefit of an effective aftercare program is that participants attend individual and group counseling that can address trust issues and create strategies to develop honest communications. Any negative or confused feelings toward drug testing can be addressed in these meetings. The counseling provides an opportunity for growth and an understanding that testing is always about keeping a substance abuser safe.
If you have questions about drug tests, and how these tests factor into ongoing treatment programs, contact us today. Whether you are interested in inpatient or outpatient care, for yourself or for someone you love, we can tell you about programs that are right for your situation. Call now.
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton