Testing for drug use, part 1: Analytical methods

M. Montagne, C. B. Pugh, J. L. Fink

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Issues surrounding the screening and testing of individuals for drug use, including analytical and legal aspects of the procedures and social, political, and ethical problems and concerns, are reviewed. Historically, professional and societal debate regarding drug taking, drug-use problems, and the utility of drug testing programs occurs in cycles. Analytical methods commonly used to test for drug use include breath analysis for alcohol and urine drug assays. Blood alcohol concentrations are determined by laboratory assay methods or by portable devices used in the field. While poor laboratory procedures can invalidate test results for both breath and urine tests, urine screening test results can be further invalidated by improper handling of specimens or by tampering on the part of the subject. Also, test results are meaningful only if they are correlated with a clinical state. Legal issues have been raised concerning the validity of testing procedures used and the reliability of evidence obtained, especially in relation to pre-employment drug screening. From an ethical standpoint, drug testing tends to focus efforts to combat drug abuse on the drugs themselves instead of on the social context of the problem. With a recycled interest in drug-use testing and screening, primarily attributable to technological advances, little attention is being given to other approaches to controlling drug use. Additional research is needed to better describe the nature and extent of our drug-use problems and their impact on society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1297-1305
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospital Pharmacy
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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