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Alternative namesBarbiturates - screen; Benzodiazepines - screen; Amphetamines - screen; Analgesics - screen; Antidepressants - screen; Narcotics - screen; Methanol - screen; Phenothiazines - screen; Isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) - screen; Drug abuse screen; Blood alcohol test
DefinitionThese are various tests to evaluate the type (and roughly measure the amount) of legal and illegal drugs a person has taken.
How the test is performed
Toxicology screening is most often performed on blood or urine (the specimens of choice) but can be performed on gastric contents (vomit or lavage fluids) if performed soon after the substance is ingested. Nails or hair can be tested for arsenic and mercury .
A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. During the procedure, the band is removed to restore circulation. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.
How to prepare for the testThere is no special preparation; this test is often performed as an emergency test. Inform the health care provider of any prescription and over-the-counter medications you have taken, including the amount and time of ingestion.
How the test will feelWhen the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
If a urine sample is used, it involves only normal urination and there is no discomfort.
Why the test is performedThis test can be used to evaluate possible accidental or intentional overdose or poisoning, such as when there is a need to evaluate the type and amount of legal and illegal drugs used by a person. The test can be performed to determine the cause of acute drug toxicity, to monitor drug dependency, and to determine the presence of substances in the body (for medical and/or legal purposes). See also: Drug abuse first aid .
If the test is used as a drug screen there is a finite amount of time after ingestion that the drug or any of its metabolites can be detected:
Normal Values"Normal" levels vary according to the institution performing the test.
Blood can be tested for the presence and levels (amounts) of medications. Urine screening is usually reported as positive (substance is present) or negative (absent), but the level of certain substances can also be measured fairly accurately in urine.
Therapeutic levels are measured for prescribed or over-the-counter medications (see the specific medication).
Alcohol, prescription medications that are not prescribed, and illegal drugs are not normally present.
What abnormal results meanThe presence of illegal drugs or drugs not prescribed for the person indicates illicit drug use .
Elevated levels of alcohol or prescription drugs can indicate intentional or accidental intoxication and/or overdose.
Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:
What the risks are
The risks associated with having blood drawn are:
Special considerationsCommonly found substances on a toxicology screen include:
Update Date: 2/9/2004Frank A. Greco, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Biophysical Laboratory, The Lahey Clinic, Burlington, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT