Trends in toxicology

Jan. 1, 2009

Part of the work of
the lab's toxicology department is detecting drugs (poisons).
Emergency-room patients or inpatients who are suffering the effects of a
dose of the wrong medication or a “hit” of a dangerous street drug
create a situation that demands fast test results for patient safety.
Many workplaces require drug screening as part of the hiring processes
and, sometimes, ongoing random testing continues to secure an employee's
job. Searching for “poisons” can involve regular screening in jails and
prisons. Such searches can ascertain whether or not illness or death can
be attributed to exposure to a chemical poison or environmental hazard
such as lead paint. Toxicology's search can move from one extreme to
another, from discovering steroids in top-drawer athletes or finding
antifreeze in the system of an unfortunate alcoholic on the street.
What's coming to the toxicology lab?

SAMHSA releases new regs for fed workplace testing
“Recently, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published new regulations for federal-workplace testing. While these regulations do not apply specifically to clinical diagnostic drug testing for medical purposes, most drug testing follows the SAMHSA guidelines with regard to recommended cutoffs. In these regulations, SAMHSA has recommended lower cutoffs for cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines (including methamphetamine and methylenedioxymethamphetine or MDMA). Manufacturers of clinical diagnostic drug tests will most likely be adopting these lower cutoffs, increasing the sensitivity and detection periods of some of the drug assays. Rapid drug screening continues to be an effective way to potentially reduce turnaround time and emergency department length of stay.”

—Anne Becknell
Director, Marketing
Drugs of Abuse SBU
Inverness Medical Innovations Inc.
Maker of

Multifunctional readers deliver results at POC
“In 2006, 20.4 millions Americans (8.3%) aged 12 or older were current illicit drug users. As substance abuse continues to be a significant problem globally, it now becomes even more important for hospitals, labs, and workplaces to have easy-to-use and accurate rapid drugs-of-abuse testing solutions to provide them with valid information to make decisions on the most effective treatment. To satisfy the demand for these innovative needs, many physicians' offices, labs, and emergency services are looking to utilize small multifunctional readers, which deliver accurate and efficient results in point-of-care situations by eliminating the subjectivity of traditional visual-read testing solutions. These readers not only provide a quality service to the end-users through the performance of the test but also, in many cases, they can store and manage patient results by connecting to laboratory information systems, which provide numerous advantages in database management. These devices are capable of performing large volumes of tests while delivering results in five minutes.”

—Larry Porter
LifeSign LLC
Maker of DXpress Reader

Society for Toxicology meeting

The 48th Annual Meeting & ToxExpo of the Society
for Toxicology (SOT) is scheduled for March 15-19, 2009, at the
Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland. SOT President Kenneth S. Ramos
explains that SOT's annual meeting is the forum that showcases
toxicology's novel discoveries; this five-day event is the culmination
of a year's worth of achievements in research and education. The ToxExpo
is the largest exposition of its kind and offers a comprehensive
marketplace for product information and cutting-edge technology in one
place. For more information, including an annual meeting history, go to

New strategies forthe New Year

Addiction affects people
from all walks of life — presidents struggling to stop smoking, doctors
dependent on pain pills, elderly widows who gamble too much, and teenagers
abusing stimulant drugs. Nearly a quarter of Americans have a nicotine
addiction at one point or another, and more than one in seven grapple with a
drug- or alcohol-use disorder. Overcoming Addiction: Paths toward
, a new report from Harvard Medical School, offers guidance for
breaking unwanted addictive habits and starting fresh for 2009.

For many years, experts believed that addiction
was possible only to powerful drugs or alcohol. More recently, they have
recognized that excessive behaviors such as gambling, shopping, and sex
also can lead to addiction. What is common to all addictions is the
brain's response to pleasurable experiences, no matter what their
source. Genetic research has uncovered that some people are predisposed
to addiction in general but not to a specific type. In other words,
addiction is a disorder that manifests itself in many different ways.

A number of effective treatments can help people
recover from addiction, including self-help strategies, psychotherapy,
medications, rehabilitation programs, or a combination of these
elements. All are described in this report, along with advice about
coping with a loved one's addiction. If you are trying to overcome an
addiction at the dawn of this New Year, the following steps offer the
greatest chance of success.

  1. Seek help. Although people can recover from addiction on their
    own, others need advice and support from professionals, peers, or
    both. Your own doctor, a community mental health center, or a local
    substance-abuse treatment center are good places to start.
  2. Set a quit date. It might be helpful to choose a meaningful date
    like a special event, birthday, or anniversary.
  3. Change your environment. Remove any reminders of your addiction
    from home and workplace. For example, separate from those who would
    encourage you to be involved with the substance or behavior. If you
    are trying to quit drinking, get rid of any alcohol, bottle openers,
    wine glasses, and corkscrews. If you are trying to quit gambling,
    remove reminders of gambling, such as playing cards, scratch
    tickets, or poker chips. Also, do not let other people use or bring
    reminders of the substance or behavior into your home.
  4. Learn new skills and activities. Instead of giving in to an urge
    to use, come up with alternative activities, such as going for a
    walk, to keep you busy until the urge passes. Be prepared to deal
    with things that trigger your cravings, such as being in an
    environment where others are using.
  5. Review your past attempts at quitting. Think about what worked
    and what did not. Think of what might have contributed to relapse
    and change accordingly.
  6. Create a support network. Talk to your family, friends, and
    co-workers and ask for their encouragement and support. Also,
    consider talking to your healthcare provider about the method of
    quitting that is best for you. There may be medications that can
    ease the process for you, and increase your chances of success.

Overcoming Addiction: Paths toward Recovery
is available for $18 from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing
division of Harvard Medical School. Order online at
, or call toll-free 877-649-9457.