Drug Testing without Patient Consent?

Clinical Psychiatry News, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Drug Testing without Patient Consent?


It's acceptable to perform drug testing in an adolescent without the patient's consent in cases of altered mental status such as intoxication or overdose or as an adjunct in the evaluation of the victim of trauma or violence, Dr. Baren said.

It's also acceptable when it's necessary to make an appropriate disposition that's clearly going to benefit the patient. "Some physicians ask, 'Why do rehab facilities require us to do the drug testing when the patients is not currently showing signs of drug or alcohol intoxication?' Because it's in the patient's best interest to get to that facility," Dr.Baren said. "We all know it's a crunch in terms of available beds for treating mental health disorders."

It's also okay to perform drug testing when the patient gives you permission. "Many teens want help, and they know this is going to be a way to get it," said Dr.Baren.

Before ordering a urine drug screen, consider this question: Will the test provide any information on the pattern of abuse, the amount of dependence, or the impairment the patients has from drug use?

"The answer is almost uniformly going to be no," Dr. Baren said. "A positive screen only tells you that there's been use, but it doesn't really tell you where that patient falls on that continuum. …

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