Oral fluid testing proves comparative accuracy to urinalysis in detecting drug use

December 11, 2003

A recently published study in the December issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence indicates that the use of oral fluid analysis may be an effective alternative to urinalysis in detecting drug use in a opiate treatment setting. Gerald A. Bennett and Eleanor Davies from the Addictions Service, Dorset HealthCare NHS Trust and Peter Thomas from Dorset Research and Development Support Unit, Poole Hospital NHS Trust, Bournemouth University studied the use of rapid oral testing to assess accuracy in detecting drugs of abuse. The study examined specificity and sensitivity of oral screening as a viable alternative to urinalysis, which is more invasive and an often defrauded method.

One hundred and fifty-seven subjects with known drug problems were tested. The subjects were seeking treatment for substance abuse and were tested periodically to monitor continued drug use. They were screened using three methods for use of opiates, methadone, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines. The subjects each submitted to a laboratory urinalysis, and rapid screenings of both oral fluids and urine. The results of the study showed that the subjects in a treatment setting could be administered an oral fluid analysis as an alternative to a urinalysis with similar accuracy in detecting opiate or methadone use. However, the oral screening was significantly less effective at detecting the presence of benzodiazepines than the urinalysis. The screening for amphetamines was discontinued because of a very small number of subjects using those drugs. The ease of administration of the oral fluid test makes it an attractive alternative to urinalysis, but with several limitations. Substances in saliva are only detectable for 12 to 24 hours after consumption, a shorter time period than in urine. Testing for other drugs of abuse, such as marijuana was not evaluated. Further clinical testing is needed to determine if it is effective in detecting drug use in a non-treatment setting. Nevertheless, the method offers an attractive alternative to expensive and invasive urinary testing.
For more information, please contact:
Dr Gerald Bennett
Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Addiction Services
Dorset HealthCare NHS Trust
16-18 Tower Road
United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 1202 443174
Fax: +44 1202 395116
email: gerald.bennett@dorsethc-tr.swest.nhs.uk

© 2003 Drug and Alcohol Dependence. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.

About Drug and Alcohol Dependence
Drug and Alcohol Dependence (www.elsevier.com/locate/drugalcdep), published by Elsevier, is the official journal of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (www.cpdd.org), the largest and oldest organization for the scientific study of drug dependence.

Drug and Alcohol Dependence publishes original research, scholarly reviews, commentaries, and policy analyses in the area of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and dependence. The hope of its editors is to promote mutual understanding of the many facets of drug abuse to the benefit of all investigators involved in drug and alcohol research, and to facilitate the transfer of scientific findings to successful treatment and prevention practices.

The information contained in Drug and Alcohol Dependence is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and the Journal recommends consultation with your physician or healthcare professional.

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