What does a Toxicologist Do?
What is Toxicology?
Toxicology is defined as the scientific study of harmful effects also known as toxins and toxicants on living organisms including human beings, animals, the environment and ecosystems. This area of study focuses on understanding the nature, intensity and mechanism levels of drug substances. Moreover it assesses the risks that are associated with harmful substances. In the health sector, clinical toxicology focuses on detecting and treating overdose of drugs in human beings thus providing urgent care in emergency situations. This is where toxicology testing factors in. In this blog, we will dive into the insights about toxicology and how toxicology testing allows us to detect different harmful substances.
Who is a Toxicologist?
A toxicologist is a scientific professional specializing in the study of toxic substances and their adverse effects on different living organisms such as human beings, animals, ecosystems, etc. toxicologists are mainly responsible for investigating any potential risks and harm caused by drugs, properties of substance, and various environmental agents. The primary role of toxicologists is to determine safe exposure levels and provide guidance to eliminate risks to healthcare. A toxicologist works in different sectors such as pharmaceutical, healthcare, environmental protection, contributing to public safety, and research institutions and working on the advancements in the realm of toxicology.
Understanding Toxicology Testing
Toxicology testing mainly detects drugs or other chemicals that are in your urine, blood or saliva. Since drugs can be inhaled or injected into the body, a toxicology test can be used as a useful method to detect traces and harmful substances that intoxicate the body. Toxicology tests can detect up to 30 drugs in your body. These include over-the-counter medicines, non-prescription medicines such as aspirin, alcohol, illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
You may be tested for toxins because of a policy at your workplace or school. Moreover, your healthcare provider may ask for a toxicology test to help you get treatment for any type of drug addiction or substance abuse to provide you full recovery.
What Are the Different Types of Toxicology Testing?
There are four types of toxicology testing:
- Medical Testing
- Forensic Testing
- Athletics Testing
- Employment Drug Testing
Most of the toxicology testing sample is attained by blood test, urine and saliva. In some cases, hair is also used as a sample.
Toxicology Testing; What Does it Detect?
There are several substances that can be screened through toxicology testing. Some common classes of drugs may be detected by toxicology testing such as:
- Amphetamines such as Adderall
- Opiates (Oxycodone, Heroin, Codeine)
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
After consuming a substance for a few hours or weeks, depending on its nature, it may be discovered through a sample of blood or urine. However, substances for example, alcohol is eliminated from the far quickly as compared to other drugs, such as THC present in marijuana that may take several weeks.
Why is a Toxicology Test Performed?
There are several reasons to do toxicology tests. Most significantly, this test is frequently carried out to find out if someone has used medications that could be bad for their health. Doctors may perform the test if person is taking illegal drugs or showing the following symptoms:
- Panic attacks
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Since toxicology testing is often done in emergency medical situations. It can be used to detect accidental or intentional overdose of drugs or poisoning. Toxicology testing allows the doctors to determine the cause of acute drug toxicity and monitor drug dependency.
Additional reasons why toxicology testing may be performed includes:
- Alcohol withdrawal state
- Drug abuse monitoring
- Kidney Poisoning (Analgesic nephropathy)
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Stroke caused by cocaine
- Suspected sexual assault
- During pregnancy (if there is a history of substance intake)
How are Samples Obtained for Toxicology Testing?
As mentioned above, toxicology testing often requires a urine sample. Another way to collect a sample for toxicology screening involves drawing blood into small tubes. Your doctor will use a needle to draw blood from a vein, which is a fairly straightforward procedure. Urine tests and blood testing both provide reliable estimates of a drug’s concentration. For results evaluation, the laboratory receives all of the samples.
Who Needs to Take a Toxicology Test?
Your healthcare provider may ask you for this test if you:
- Have a drug addictions
- Show signs of substance abuse
- Experiencing mental health issues
- Have been taking a controlled drug.
How to Prepare for Toxicology Testing?
There are no specific preparations for toxicology testing. However, it is important to tell your healthcare provider about any history of drug use, or any prescribed medications you have been taking. This is because certain medicines can interfere with the test results.
Toxicology Testing; What do the Results Mean?
Most of the toxicology tests provide concise information about how often a drug has been taken. Toxicology testing usually results in positive or negative.
A positive test result means that a person’s body contains one or more drugs or dangerous substances. Your healthcare professional will first identify the drug kind before performing a more accurate test to ascertain the precise concentrations of the chemical in the body.
A negative test result demonstrates that your body contained no signs of drugs. This entails that you have never taken any type of drug and even if you have, your body may have processed them.
Toxicology testing is crucial in ensuring the security of human health and preventing dangerous compounds that could endanger human life. As the field of toxicology continues to evolve, the dedication of our toxicologists is unwavering to save lives and enhance our understanding of toxicology. Star Medical Lab specializes in accurate toxicology testing services. With specialized and advanced equipment, Star Medical Lab ensures fast, reliable results. Book an appointment today!