Clinical Drug Testing in Primary Care

The clinical drug testing can be an important tool at healthcare professionals’ disposal to evaluate patients, to support assessment and diagnosis, and to advocate on behalf of patients.

The types of clinical situations in which clinical drug testing can be used include pain management with opioid medications, office-based opioid treatment, primary care, psychiatry, and other situations when healthcare providers need to determine alcohol or other substance use in patients.


Drug testing provides information that:

  • Can affect clinical decisions on a patient’s substance use that affects other medical conditions.
  • Can affect clinical decisions about pharmacotherapy, especially with controlled substances.
  • Increases the safety of prescribing medications by identifying the potential for overdose or serious drug interactions.
  • Helps clinicians assess patient use of opioids for chronic pain management or compliance with pharmacotherapy for opioid maintenance treatment for opioid use disorders.
  • Helps the clinician assess the efficacy of the treatment plan and the current level of care for chronic pain management and substance use disorders (SUDs).
  • Prevents dangerous medication interactions during surgery or other medical procedures.
  • Aids in screening, assessing, and diagnosing an SUD, although drug testing is not a definitive indication of an SUD.
  • Identifies women who are pregnant, or who want to become pregnant, and are using drugs or alcohol.
  • Identifies at-risk neonates.
  • Monitors abstinence in a patient with a known SUD.
  • Verifies, contradicts, or adds to a patient’s self-report or family member’s report of substance use.
  • Identifies a relapse to substance use.