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Why do you require urine drug screens?

Urine drug screens are a useful tool to help keep patients accountable for their goals during recovery. When providers look at a urine drug screen result, they see if substances that should be in there (like Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone)), are in there AND substances that should NOT be in there (like non-prescribed drugs) are NOT. If unexpected results come up in the urine drug screen, it is an opportunity for the medical provider to have a conversation with the patient to understand if the patient needs more support with their recovery. 

In this spirit, we don’t talk about “failing a drug test” and we don’t use the urine drug test to punish patients or to take them off their Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone). Our goal is to try to maximize patients’ likelihood of achieving a successful recovery, which includes continuing life-saving medications like Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) and may also include mental health and other behavioral supports. Hence, urine drug screens are one way we help patients meet their treatment goals.

Rebekah L. Rollston, MD, MPH

Dr. Rollston is a Family Medicine Physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, Affiliate Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Primary Care Blog, and Founder of Doctors For A Healthy US, LLC. She earned her Medical Degree from East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine and her Master of Public Health from The George Washington University. Her professional interests focus on social influencers of health & health disparities, addiction medicine, sexual & reproductive health, homelessness & supportive housing, and rural health.

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