Helping you detect the presence of drugs and alcohol safely and effectively

 In Clinical Guidelines, Simplifying Product Supply

One of the key areas of focus for any healthcare organisation is patient safety. Properly carried out drug and alcohol testing of patients can be used to enhance this.

The Department of Health has issued UK guidelines on Clinical Management relating to Drug Misuse and Dependence. This gives clear recommendations on all aspects of drug misuse, including drug testing.

Illicit and prescribed drugs and medication can be detected in a variety of biological samples using different testing methods. Ensuring you select the most appropriate testing methods can help to identify drug misuse, allowing this to be considered during treatment.

It is also important to bear in mind the sensitivity and windows of detection of different drugs tests. Failing to take this into account can result in false negatives or false positives. With this in mind, it is always important to interpret inconsistent or unexpected results in the light of other clinical information.

Drug testing – urine or saliva?

Urinalysis is highly economical, but there is a high possibility of specimen tampering. This is because it is not always feasible to collect specimens under reliable supervision. Urinalysis cannot be used to detect immediate drug abuse. It requires some time for the drug to be ingested into the body.

Saliva/Oral fluid testing has the advantage of being easier to collect and harder to adulterate due to easy supervision. Also, on-the-spot testing of very recent drug abuse is possible, as the drugs enter the saliva far quicker than they enter urine. However, a risk assessment must be carried out on each patient, as the test must be inserted into the mouth.

Screening and confirmation drug tests

Most drug testing processes consist of two separate types of analysis: a screening test and a confirmations or classification stage. The screening test is usually fairly quick, cheap and easy to do, and is designed to easily identify negative results. Frequently, an immunoassay system is used, either in the laboratory or using point of care or dipstick tests. With these tests, a negative result can usually be accepted as a negative, but a positive result, particularly if substantial weight is to be placed on it, should normally be confirmed by a different type of test, usually conducted by a laboratory.

Uses of Drug Testing

  • Initial assessment and confirmation of drug use (although testing does not confirm dependence or tolerance and should be used alongside other methods of assessment).
  • Confirming treating compliance – that a patient is taking prescribed medication.
  • Monitoring illicit drug use, including as a drug specific treatment goal (for example, as part of a psychosocial intervention)

The rationale for testing and the use made of drug test results is important and must be clearly delineated to those responsible for patient care, in order to be cost effective and efficacious.

Drug testing to confirm drug use when a patient has admitted to it and is already in treatment is generally not cost effective.

Procedures for Drug Testing

It is best practice to have written procedures for the collection and storage of biological samples, their dispatch to a laboratory and the discussion and management of reported results. Standard operating procedures should include, where relevant, instruction on storage of point-of-care test devices, calibration of equipment, recording of results infection control procedures and disposal of biological fluids. Appropriate facilities should be available for sample collection and, if conducted, for testing on site.

Collection procedures should aim to ensure the integrity of specimens. The time of sample collection should always be noted and related to the consumption over the last few days of both prescribed and illicit drugs.

If you would like more information surrounding Drugs misuse and testing we have a comprehensive guide called the Drug & Alcohol Testing Information Guide which goes into much further depth and outlines all important information relating to drug and alcohol testing, including:

  • Care Quality Commission Regulations regarding Drug Testing
  • Department of Health Drug Testing Guidelines
  • What drugs can be tested for?
  • Detection Time & Cut off Levels
  • Effective Drug Testing Protocol
  • How to USE a Drug Test
  • Drug Test Results Explained
  • Interpreting Results
  • Adulteration Testing
  • Alcohol Testing

Alcohol testing

Most alcohol tests, whether a breathalyser or a saliva test, can provide results quickly and accurately. Breathalyser testing should be conducted at least 20 minutes after the last consumption of alcohol. If the patient is smoking, you should wait one minute after the cigarette has been finished. To ensure accuracy, saliva tests should be conducted at least 15 minutes after placing food, drink or other materials in the mouth.

Fast, reliable and accurate drug and alcohol testing

Ashtons provides an extensive range of drug & alcohol testing products, ranging from Adulteration Testing, Breathalysers, Multipanel test cups, Saliva drug test, single & multipanel drug test cassettes and timers.

If you would like to order any of these products please visit our online ordering website by clicking here.

We have recently produced an information leaflet outlining some key guidance and products related to drug and alcohol testing. You can download the PDF of the leaflet here..

For further information, please call us on 0345 222 3550 or complete the contact form at the bottom of the page.

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