Why do psychiatrists drug test?

Psychiatrists drug test to make diagnosis, monitor your mental health treatment, or to diagnose possible addiction issues. More on why psychiatrists do (and don’t) drug test here.

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Will a psychiatrist drug test me? Yes, on occasion.

In fact, testing for illegal drugs may be a prerequisite to receiving treatment by a psychiatrist. But patient confidentiality ensures that test results remain confidential and a psychiatrist drug test can help create a foundation of honesty and openness between patient and practitioner. Here, we will discuss the significant role drug testing plays in a psychiatrist’s diagnosis and the serious health risks patients face when treatment collides with hidden drug use. As always, your questions about drug testing are welcomed at the end. We try to answer all questions with a personal and prompt response.

Reasons for drug testing during psychiatric treatment

There are no scientific tests to prove the presence of a psychiatric disorder. Instead, a diagnosis of a mental illness is based purely on professional expertise and the evaluation of symptoms, often following a 45-50 minute interview and without obtaining medical history from corroborating sources. So what role does drug testing have in psychiatric treatment? Psychiatrists drug test new or ongoing patience for some of the following reasons:

1. To complete a psychiatric assessment – Drug test results can help psychiatrists conduct a more thorough and accurate assessment and pave the way to an effective treatment plan.

2. To monitor substance abuse – Additionally, some practitioners use drug testing as a means to monitor ongoing issues with addiction.  Similar to chronic pain drug testing, doctors sometimes order drug tests to make sure that you are following medical advice.

3. To diagnose possible co-existing disorders – Substance abuse and psychiatric disorders often co-exist, and determining the appropriate course of action is essential for successful treatment. According to studies, nearly one-third of mentally ill patients have abused substances, and over one-third of alcohol abusers and more than half of drug abusers have been diagnosed with at least one serious mental condition. Psychiatrists who understand all the variables up front will correctly assess when a dual diagnosis is warranted.

Risks of hiding drug use from a psychiatrist

A psychiatric assessment that does not reflect results from a drug test can lead to complications that patients and psychiatrists both want to avoid. What are some of these risks?

1. Misdiagnosis – For one, without factoring in evidence of drug use, a psychiatrist may misdiagnose a mental illness based on witnessing side effects from illegal drugs.

2. Exposure to psychiatric medications with serious side effects – More concerning, misdiagnosis can lead to treatment prescribed for a nonexistent mental illness, and expose a person to psychiatric medications with a known list of side effects that may pose certain health risks. Some psycho stimulants, for example, are known to have caused mania, psychosis, depression, heart attack, stroke, and, in extremes cases where a preexisting heart condition may be present, even sudden death. In fact, some medications are just as powerful or addictive as illegal drugs like heroin, crack cocaine or meth.

3. Medical complications – Furthermore, patients using illegal drugs in combination with psychiatric drugs could experience additional, unforeseen side effects that misinform their diagnosis if all the contributing factors remain unknown.

Psychiatric drug testing should be in your best interest

When patients have good cause for a visit to a psychiatrist’s office, all factors related to their symptoms, including drug use, need to be discussed. The confidentiality established by the law should provide a safe environment for openness. Even so, because patients can still have reservations about disclosing illegal behavior, some psychiatrists will resort to drug testing in order to attain factual evidence in support of an accurate diagnosis.

The health risks for patients are significant when undetected drug use leads to a misdiagnosis and a potentially harmful course of drug treatment. Accurate assessments with all of the relevant factors disclosed inform psychiatrists on how they can most safely and effectively help patients with their mental health concerns.

Is confidential discussion of illegal drug use a price too big to pay when compared to the possibilities of a patient illness going untreated or suffering severe side effects from a misdiagnosis? What do you think? Is it possible that avoiding a drug test could actually cause more harm than good?

Why psychiatrists drug test questions

Do you still have questions about why psychiatrists drug test? Or maybe about the drug tests themselves? Please leave your questions, comments or opinions here. We respond to all legitimate concerns quickly and with a personal reply.

About the author
Clearview Treatment Programs provides highly individualized treatment programs for people with psychiatric disorders, alcohol and drug addictions, and dual diagnosis. Clearview operates the Clearview Women’s Center, which is specifically designed to address the symptoms of psychiatric disorders, including Borderline Personality Disorder and other disorders related to emotional regulation.
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