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Op/ed: To Treat Overdose Patients, Hospitals Need to Test for Drugs Used Today

Amid Opioid Crisis, Officials at UMD Substance Abuse Center Press for National System of Expanded Testing

By Eric Wish, Amy Billings and Erin Artigiani

a gloved hand holds a tube of urine and a test strip

Drug urinalyses in hospitals need to test for fentanyl, the leading cause of overdoses in the U.S., said UMD researchers in an op/ed.

Photo from iStock

Every three minutes in America, someone suffers a nonfatal opioid overdose, yet standard hospital urine drug tests don’t detect fentanyl, which is driving a national crisis that has claimed more than 1 million lives.

The University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Use, Addiction, and Health Research (CESAR) has been piloting a new approach, the Emergency Department Drug Surveillance (EDDS) system, which gives 50 hospitals across the U.S. the opportunity to submit anonymous urine specimens at no cost to the hospitals for expanded urinalyses. In a new essay in Scientific American, criminology and criminal justice Associate Professor Eric Wish, EDDS principal investigator and CESAR founding director, along with EDDS Project Manager Amy Billing and CESAR Deputy Director for Policy Erin Artigiani, argue that this program needs to be taken nationwide.

Hospitals link people to treatment in their time of greatest need. That includes drug overdoses, which now kill more than 100,000 people in the U.S. every year. However, the standard hospital urine drug tests often do not detect fentanyl, which today is the leading cause of fatal overdoses, or other “synthetic” substances. Expanded urinalyses that could detect them can be time-consuming and cost-prohibitive.

But if hospital drug screens fail to detect these drugs, people will likely not be fully diagnosed. Without an opioid-positive urine test, they may not be accepted into an opioid treatment program. Or their treatment may not be covered by insurance.

Read the rest in Scientific American.



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