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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, April 2, 2007

Urine tests for drug use unreliable, Children's study says

Random urine tests for drug use have a high error rate even when performed in adolescent substance abuse programs, researchers from Children's Hospital Boston report in the April issue of Pediatrics.

Dr. Sharon Levy and her colleagues at the hospital's Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research took 710 random urine tests from 110 patients who were 13 to 21 years old and enrolled in a drug program. Comparing the results with those obtained from confirmed laboratory tests, they found that 12 percent of the random tests had results that could be misinterpreted.

Some of the samples were too diluted to interpret reliably. Of the samples confirmed to show Oxycontin use, two-thirds had tested negative at first.

Drug-testing programs demand rigorous procedures and well-trained people to obtain accurate results, the authors conclude.

"'Quick and dirty' drug-testing programs that use procedures of convenience are likely to result in unintended consequences, such as misidentifying some students as using illicit drugs when they are not and enabling others to continue illicit drug use by allowing them to evade detection easily," the Children's authors wrote.

In last month's issue the American Academy of Pediatrics said drug testing of adolescents at home or in school was unreliable and lacked scientific proof of effectiveness.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:28 AM
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