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Industry Insights

How to Start a Toxicology Laboratory

Are you a behavioral health provider or physician seeking to expand your test menu by adding toxicology testing? Or perhaps you’re new to the industry but are exploring the possibility of starting a toxicology laboratory to serve the needs of your local community. Whatever the scope of your vision, it’s important to understand the basics of toxicology testing and how it could serve your patient population prior to beginning any build or test menu expansion.

Toxicology tests search for the presence or absence of drugs/drug metabolites in a patient’s blood, urine, hair, sweat, or saliva. Oftentimes, physicians utilize toxicology testing to help inform clinical decision making, or because a patient requires a test to comply with employment or school policies. Physicians may also order toxicology tests to help assess treatment options for patients suffering from substance abuse or those in recovery.

Offering drug screening through an in-house toxicology laboratory also allows the physician to customize their panels and targets while avoiding additional unnecessary testing that may occur when shipping samples to reference labs. This strategy allows the physician to save time while also recapturing the revenue being generated for reference labs.



General Reasons to Order Toxicology Screens

There are several reasons patients may require a drug screen, including if they:

  • Are in treatment for drug addiction
  • Show signs of substance abuse
  • Are struggling with mental health issues
  • Have been taking a controlled drug for an extended period of time (ie: Therapeutic drug monitoring)
  • Medication-assisted treatment

A patient could also require toxicology testing due to school, work, or insurance requirements. Drug tests may also be needed for legal reasons, such as when an individual is on parole.

Additionally, drug screening can also be utilized to offer Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which is use of medications coupled with counseling and behavioral therapies. This method effective in the treatment of opioid use disorders and can help some patients stay in recovery.


What Can I Screen For?

Toxicology panels can screen for a wide range of drugs or analytes and can be customized depending on your preferences. Some of the most common drugs include:

  • alcohol, including ethanol and methanol
  • amphetamines, such as Adderall
  • barbiturates
  • benzodiazepines
  • methadone
  • marijuana (THC)
  • cocaine
  • opiates, including codeine, oxycodone, and heroin
  • phencyclidine (PCP)

Working with an expert like Lighthouse when starting a toxicology laboratory allows you to create a custom method specific to your test menu – giving you the ability to test for a wide range of drugs on several popular instruments. Our technical team can develop custom panels of over 100+ drugs and analytes to help you start your drug testing business. We also engage in method development to create solutions for a wide range of analytical techniques and materials.


How Are They Performed?

Typically, a sample of the patient’s blood or urine will be tested by drawing from their arm or asking them to urinate into a cup. Sometimes, sweat, hair, or saliva is used instead of blood or urine. Prior to starting your drug testing business, our scientific team trains lab staff on the instrumentation, sample prep, loading of the instrument, data interpretation, and certifying reports.

Patients should be asked prior to testing to recount any drugs they’ve taken recently, including over-the-counter medications and supplements since some of them can cause a false positive on a toxicology screen.

Results will then be returned to the patient as positive or negative for the analytes you tested for. If positive, a second, more precise test is typically done to confirm the result, known as confirmation testing.


Why You Should Work with an Expert

Starting a toxicology laboratory can be challenging, which is why Lighthouse offers our expertise and startup procedures to make this process easier and more efficient. We have a proven turnkey method that will take you from concept to completion. Our team of Toxicologists focused on runtime, compliance, equipment needs, sample throughput, and reimbursement when they developed our cost-effective strategy, which we’ve utilized to build more than 100 toxicology labs across the nation.

Ready to get started? Contact us today for a free consultation!


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