Use of the urine drug screen in psychiatry emergency service

Australas Psychiatry. 2015 Apr;23(2):128-31. doi: 10.1177/1039856214568213. Epub 2015 Feb 12.


Objective: This study investigates if the routine use of the urine drug screen offers any diagnostic or management benefit in the assessment and treatment of psychiatry patients in a suburban psychiatry emergency service.

Methods: Data was collected retrospectively from consecutive patients 18 years and above, who presented to a large suburban hospital emergency department and had a urine drug screen ordered in the emergency department. A total of 111 patients, (with mean age of participants being 34.9 years, SD 10.2 years, minimum 18-maximum 62 years, 62.2% (69/111) were male) met the inclusion criteria.

Results: The most common drug group identified was benzodiazepines (59.5%; 66/111), followed by cannabis (40.5%; 45/111). Other drugs were identified at much lower levels, including amphetamines (9.0%; 10/111), opiates (4.5%; 5/111) and methadone (0%; 0/111). For most individuals only one drug was detected (55.9%; 62/111), with equal numbers (18.9%) with either zero or two drugs identified by a urine drug screen. Fewer patients had three drugs on a urine drug screen (5.4%; 6/111) or four (0.9%; 1/111).

Conclusions: Qualitative urine drug screens provide limited additional information compared to history taking and has minimal impact on clinical management decisions in a psychiatry emergency service.

Keywords: emergency; history; management; psychiatry; urine drug screen.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Emergency Services, Psychiatric / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotropic Drugs / urine*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Young Adult


  • Psychotropic Drugs