Opioid Testing

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What is Opioid Testing?

Opioid testing is a laboratory-based procedure that screens for the presence of opioids – typically morphine, codeine, and 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) – in a biological sample, typically a urine sample. The test is used to help diagnose an opioid overdose or to identify opioid-based substances that the person may be abusing. It is also used to monitor a person’s opioid usage in the context of pain management and opioid substitution therapy.

Preparation for Opioid Testing

Before testing, it’s important for the clinician to understand the medical history of the patient, the reason for the test, and the medications that the patient may have taken. Standard laboratory safety and universal precautions should also be employed when collecting and handling the sample. The sample should be labeled with the patient’s name and the time and date of collection.

Procedure for Opioid Testing

A sample is typically collected and sent to an accredited laboratory. The sample is then prepped and prepared for analysis, typically using either a chromatographic or immunoassay chemical process. This process detects the presence of opioids in the sample and provides a result in terms of nanograms per liter (ng/L). Reference ranges (or cutoff levels) are then compared to determine if the sample is considered positive for opioids or not. The results may be reported out in either a qualitative (positive/negative) or quantitative (ng/L) format.

Types of Opioid Testing

  • Qualitative: Results are positive or negative.
  • Quantitative: Results are an exact amount of the opioid in the sample.
  • Targeted: Tests specifically for an opioid such as morphine, codeine or fentanyl.
  • Broad Spectrum: Tests for a variety of opioids, including those listed above.
  • Confirmatory Testing: Testing conducted to verify the results of the initial test.

Risks of Opioid Testing

Opioid testing is generally considered safe, though there are potential risks. These risks include skin irritation or allergic reactions that can occur from coming into contact with the testing materials. In some cases, false positives and false negatives can occur, which can lead to incorrect follow up treatments or incorrect assessment of the patient’s health.

Why is Opioid Testing Needed?

Opioid testing is often needed to diagnose an overdose or to identify opioid abuse. It can help healthcare professionals to determine the best course of treatment for the patient. In certain cases, opioid testing may be conducted in the case of a court-ordered drug test, or as part of an employee drug screening policy. The test can help to identify if a person has been using opioid substances.

When is Opioid Testing Needed?

Opioid testing can be conducted at any time when there is a suspicion of opioid use or abuse. In the case of an overdose, the test can help to determine the appropriate treatment. Opioid testing may also be conducted when a person is being prescribed opioid medication for pain management. In some cases, opioid testing may be ordered as part of a court-ordered drug test or employee drug screening policy.