Be it in any kind of sports, an employment opportunity, or a certain drug abuse case, many a time individual in the above-mentioned sectors have to undergo a certain testing procedure to ensure that their body is free of any legal or illegal drugs. And the test that is carried out to detect and examine the presence of traces of certain medications is known as Toxicology Test.
Toxic metals test

What Is Toxicology Test?

Toxicology test, also known as toxicology screen is a series of test that detects the approximate amount and type of legal or illegal drugs., poisons or other potentially toxic agents in your body. The test is chiefly conducted using a sample of your blood, urine, hair, sweat, or saliva. It may be used to screen for drug abuse, to monitor a substance abuse problem, or to evaluate drug intoxication or overdose. 

There are several drugs or medications that are used to treat certain disorders but the concentration of an element in the blood is the usual measure of toxicity.

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For example, lithium is used to treat bipolar disorder but can be toxic at high levels or acetaminophen, which is valuable in controlling fever and discomfort is toxic in large doses. A single toxicology screen may test for as many as 30 agents at one time.

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Some substances such as insecticides are toxic to one person but not to others. There are many environmental substances that are often encountered in the workplace are toxic in high doses; these include heavy metals, mineral dusts, organic solvents, dyes, and cigarette smoke. Acceptable exposure levels of these substances are usually controlled by government standards.

What Are The Types Of Toxicology Testing?

Primarily, toxicological screening is categorized into 4 main types. These include:

  • Medical testing
  • Athletics testing
  • Employment drug testing
  • Forensic analysis

Why Is Toxicology Test Performed?

A toxicology test is done for several reasons but it predominantly determines if someone has taken any drugs that could endanger their health. This screening is often asked by employers who want to make sure that their workers abstain from using illegal substances, the test may be a normal part of the application process for certain jobs or can also be used to examine athletes for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, such as steroids. In some cases, while investigating a car accident or sexual assault case, people who work in law enforcement might perform a toxicology test. Even officials can also order a test for people who are being monitored for illegal drug use, such as individuals on probation.

Other situations where this test is often conducted includes:

  • Before undergoing an organ transplant surgery
  • During pregnancy, especially if the pregnant woman has a history of substance abuse
  • During treatment for certain medical conditions, specifically those that require the use of pain medication

Doctors will usually recommend this test if they suspect that a person is taking any illegal drugs or showing any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Deliriousness
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Panic attacks
  • Vomiting

How To Prepare For Toxicology Test?

Unlike other blood tests there is no special preparation required for undergoing a toxicology test but the person needs to mention the doctor or the lab technician about the use of any prescription or over-the-counter medications that he or she might be taking.

How Is A Toxicology Test Conducted?

The toxicology test is mainly performed using a sample of blood or urine. While the blood test involves drawing blood from a vein in the arm, for the urine test the person is usually asked to pee into a cup. In some cases, the samples are often collected in presence of law enforcement or medical personnel to prevent tampering.

Apart from blood and urine, sometimes, sweat, a strand of hair, or saliva from the mouth is used for toxicology test. In extreme cases, other body fluids are checked. For example, if your stomach is pumped at the hospital, a sample of your stomach contents may be collected for testing the presence of drugs.

What Type Of Drugs Does A Toxicology Test Detect?

A toxicology test is used to detect several substances long after you inhale, inject, or ingest them. Some of these drugs include: 

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cocaine
  • Methadone
  • Opiates
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Drugs banned from competitive sports

Depending upon the class of the drug, it may show up in the blood or urine within a few hours or weeks after being ingested. Certain substances, such as alcohol, are eliminated from the body fairly quickly, while other drugs can be detected for several weeks after being consumed or used.

How To Interpret The Results Of A Toxicology Test?

After the samples are submitted to the lab, it often takes 24 to 48 hours to get the results depending upon the type of test. 

Negative: If the test is negative, it means that there was no trace of any drug in your body which might indicate that you have never taken the types of drugs the test was looking for or, your body has already processed them.

Positive: If the test comes positive, then at least a trace of one or more drugs were found in your system and the test is usually followed-up by other tests to confirm and identify the type of drug.