Drug Testing Basics

A drug test is an analysis of a biological sample used to determine the presence of specific substances. These tests do not usually indicate whether or not the subject is impaired at the time they are administered, just if the person has used any of the substances being tested for in a set period of time. Drug tests are administered for a variety of reasons in several different ways. Drug tests are a way to determine if a person is using illicit drugs, which may indicated a problem with substance abuse.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that drug abuse and addiction cost society around $524 billion a year in lost workplace efficiency, health care costs, crime, and legal troubles. Employers may test their employees in order to ensure a drug-free workplace and protect their investment.

An estimated 67.9 percent of adult illegal drug abusers are employed at least part-time and many of them full-time, according to NIDA. Drug testing may reduce or deter substance abuse at places of employment that drug test their employees as a condition of employment. Many athletic programs, including schools and professional sports organizations, test for the presence of ability-enhancing or illegal drugs. Schools that administer random drug tests are only allowed to do so legally for students who participate in extracurricular competitive activities that may include sports or student clubs, or for students who demonstrate just cause or suspicion of drug abuse.

Drug Tests in Rehab and Recovery

Drug tests are used throughout the drug rehab and recovery process for a variety of reasons. Drug tests are generally administered prior to admission to a drug or alcohol program in order to determine the level and type of substances in any incoming patient’s system.

Addicted people may not be entirely honest when entering a program, or they may not remember or be aware of how many substances they have used. It is a good idea to know what drugs may be in the system before facilitating detox or administering adjunct medications during treatment. Drugs (including alcohol) may interact with each other, causing unintended and dangerous side effects; therefore, it is important to have a clear picture of exactly what and how much might be in the system before treatment can begin.

Drug testing may also be administered at regular or random intervals during rehab and recovery in order to keep individuals accountable, honest, and drug-free during treatment. Random drug tests are harder to predict and therefore harder to beat. Drug testing may also prevent dangerous relapsing episodes. Both outpatient and inpatient treatment programs alike may use drug testing for positive reinforcement.

Drug testing is not a treatment method, but rather a tool that can be used before and during rehab and while in recovery to facilitate and encourage an abstinent lifestyle. Detox may be the initial step in a drug or alcohol treatment program after a positive drug test. After reaching a stable physical balance, behavioral therapies, individual and group counseling sessions, and peer support groups will all be incorporated into a successful treatment plan in order to facilitate a successful recovery program.

Drug testing may be more frequent at the beginning of treatment and less frequent during recovery. Drug tests can be specified to include certain or particular drugs of abuse as well.