Treatment centers and providers treating substance abuse need a way to determine if their clients are following their prescribed treatment plans. The only reliable way to ensure that clients are taking the medicines they’re prescribed—and not taking any unwanted substances—is through regular toxicology testing.
What is Toxicology Testing?
A toxicology test, also called a tox screen or drug test, looks for traces of various substances in a person’s urine. A comprehensive tox test reports not just the presence or absence of specific substances, but also the amount of each substance present.
Note that a toxicology test can’t show if an individual has a substance abuse problem. It also can’t tell how much of a substance was used or when. It can only tell if certain substances are or have recently been in a person’s body.
What Substances Do Toxicology Tests Screen For?
Substances inhaled, injected, or ingested into a person’s body leave clues as to their presence. For example, traces of opiates remain in a person’s urine for several days and signs of marijuana usage can last up to three weeks.
A toxicology test looks for traces of multiple substances in a person’s urine. Common substances screened for include:
- THC (marijuana)
How is a Toxicology Test Administered?
Toxicology testing can be performed via blood draw or urine test. Most tox testing today is done by examining a sample of an individuals’ urine.
To collect a urine sample, an individual is asked to urinate into a collection cup. To ensure that the individual does not replace their own urine with synthetic urine or another person’s (clean) urine, it is recommended that all urine collection be viewed.
Once collected, the urine sample is sealed and transported to a laboratory, where the testing itself takes place. Results are typically available within 24 to 48 hours.
How Should Test Results Be Interpreted?
- A positive result means that a trace of the given substance was found in the individual’s urine
- A negative result means that no traces of the substance, below an acceptable level, were found in the individual’s urine
Results can be either consistent or inconsistent with expectations. For example, the absence of a prescribed medication would be inconsistent with expectations, as would the presence of an unwanted substance.
Why Should Treatment Centers Employ Toxicology Testing?
There are several reasons why a treatment center might utilize toxicology testing for their clients. These reasons all boil down to ensuring that each client is adhering to their course of treatment—taking the medications they’re supposed to and not taking any unwanted substances.
First, toxicology testing objectively details the presence or absence of unwanted substances in the client’s body, as opposed to some clients’ subjective denials. Showing irrefutable evidence can contradict a patient’s protestations to the contrary and prove the need for treatment.
Toxicology testing during treatment or rehabilitation is also useful if a client has trouble admitting that they have an addiction problem. The recorded presence of a substance in the person’s system can help combat a reluctance to treatment.
Providers and treatment centers find toxicology testing useful in tracking their clients’ progress. The results of tox testing can confirm the success or failure of the current treatment program and help staff fine-tune the client’s treatment.
Tox tests can also identify situations where a client should be taking a prescribed medication but is not. There are instances where individuals forget to take their drugs, refuse to take their drugs, or sell their prescribed medication to others for money. Toxicology testing alerts treatment centers to these situations.
Depending on the individual client and the treatment center’s policy, toxicology tests may be administered weekly, monthly, or at irregular intervals. More frequent testing is often recommended at the start of an individual’s treatment, while less frequent testing may be appropriate during recovery. Many treatment centers note that toxicology testing can provide positive reinforcement of a successful treatment regime and identify any unwelcome relapses.
What Does the ASAM Recommend?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recommends toxicology testing in the following situations:
- Diagnostic settings, to provide objective evidence of substance use when diagnosing substance-related disorders
- Addiction treatment settings, to both help determine the proper course of treatment and to deter substance use during treatment
- Monitoring purposes, to verify that patients are not taking prohibited substances
Why is vTOX a Better Tox Testing Solution?
Traditional urine-based toxicology testing requires viewed urine collection to ensure the validity of each urine sample and prevent “cheating” by the tested individuals. Viewed urine collection can be embarrassing to both clients and staff and inhibit those individuals with a “shy bladder” from providing the necessary samples. Some reticent staff may refrain from viewing urine collection, thus introducing the possibility of urine sample tampering by their clients. In addition, viewed urine collection is time consuming for staff and can interrupt normal daily activities.
Some treatment centers decline to do toxicology testing because of the hassles of viewed urine collection. Fortunately, Valley Medical Laboratory’s vTOX DNA-verified urine drug testing solution eliminates all the issues revolving around viewed urine collection.
vTOX uses DNA matching to ensure that a specific urine sample is provided by the individual in question. The client provides a DNA sample via a simple one-time cheek swab and that information is stored in Valley Medical’s system. The DNA from future urine samples is matched against the client’s stored DNA information for verification purposes. This eliminates the need for viewed urine collection and makes it easier for staff and clients to employ toxicology testing.
Because of vTOX, an increasing number of formerly hesitant treatment centers are embracing toxicology testing and the benefits it brings to their treatment programs and clients.
About Valley Medical Laboratory
Valley Medical Laboratory is part of Valley Medical and Wellness, a premier provider of addiction medicine and chronic pain treatment. Our reference lab processes hundreds of toxicology tests every week for patients and addiction treatment centers while our five clinics serve a client base of more than 1,000 patients across the state of Minnesota. We offer our unique vTOX DNA-verified urine testing to all our treatment center partners as part of our normal toxicology testing services.