Treating addiction and addictive behaviors often requires a lot of patience on both the part of the treatment staff and the patient. It also requires a lot of trust and communication in order to ensure that therapy methods are having an effect and a part of that comes from knowing whether the patient has used a drug during time in treatment or not.
A recent study performed by Boston Medical Center (BMC) and faculty at the Boston University of School and Medicine analyzed the value of using urine tests during early phases of addiction treatment. The study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, found that implementing drug tests greatly increases the ability for treatment staff to properly assess a patient’s progress. Patients will not always be up front and honest with their counselors and medical professionals when asked for a variety of reasons which include fear of being kicked out of treatment for use. Other reasons may include shame and an unwillingness to disappoint their support team and maybe even those in their support group meetings, according to Sarah M. Bagley, MD, the study’s co-author who works as an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.
According to the findings of the study, 76 percent of urine tests for cocaine and 57 percent for opioids were found to be positive in patients who did not disclose having used any substances when queried by health professionals. As patient time in treatment increased within the program, that number steadily dropped. Researchers believe that the numbers tapering off as therapy goes in may be related to growing a trust between those tasked with treating the illness and the person being treated.
“It is important for providers to understand more about how the lab results compare to what patients tell us in a visit,” Bagley said. For patients who are entering treatment, self reporting may seem like a self defeating purpose. They may also have formed some habitual protection measures for maintaining secrecy with use from family or friends as well. A significant portion of treatment is behavioral therapy which not only includes shifting harmful and self destructive actions toward healthy and sober ones, but learning to accept responsibility and being honest about when a drug is used. Treatment specialists have a critical interest in tracking the use of drugs and alcohol of those under their care and knowing when a patient has used a substance allows them to analyze and adjust their approach more efficiently than if they’re unaware of the use.
The research reinforced, overall, the use and implementation of drug tests during early phases of treatment in order to ensure a more effective administration of treatment procedures, understanding the specific nature of the addiction being treated and accurately monitoring effectiveness of prescribed therapy.