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The Nuts and Bolts of Drug Testing

Part 3

This episode of Justice Speaks and the Nuts and Bolts of Drug Testing focuses on drug testing collection best practices; participant identification, collection site, specimen collection, witnessed collections and valid specimens.[1]

Check out the MATCP Drug Testing Manual to get the latest information on drug testing for courts.

Ensuring that the participant is the person providing the specimen is critical to proper collection. Courts and testing agencies cannot allow a different individual to take the place of the person who needs to be tested. Therefore verifying the donor’s identity is fundamental to any good collection procedures. Each time a participant reports for a drug or alcohol test, their identity must be confirmed. Regardless of how familiar a collector becomes with a participant, their ID should be checked each time they report.

It’s Evidence

Drug test samples in the court setting must be considered a form of forensic evidence.[2] Therefore Courts must create polices and procedures that control specimen handling including such considerations as chain of custody for any documents, sample containers and storage compartments.[3]

The collection site should be an area that is easily controlled and has only one entrance and exit. This area is designated for specimen collection only and is not open to the general public. Access to, and the number of individuals involved in, the processing of specimens should be kept to a minimum. The preferable design is a single stall with no accessible running water. A bluing agent should be added to the water in all toilets. This mitigates the chance of a participant substituting or adulterating a sample.

Collecting the Specimen

Sample collection is a critical component of an effective drug-testing program. The collection of valid samples is the necessary first step to an objective drug-testing program.[4]

Proper collection is vital.

Specimen retention is a crucial component of drug testing.[5] The storage of samples, particularly urine or blood, can be difficult. If the delay between collection and testing is substantial, the court or agency will need to have an appropriate storage area to prevent drug degradation.[6] The temperatures of any storage refrigerators or freezers should be periodically measured and recorded.

Witnessing a collection is essential. All sample collections must be observed; those not witnessed are of little or no assessment value.[7] To that end Courts must require that all specimen collection is witnessed in a gender appropriate manner.[8]

Chain of Custody

For chain of custody reasons, the collection device is to be kept in full view of the collector at all times.[9] All specimen containers must be clearly labeled with the participant’s name and a unique identifier.[10] All collectors need to be trained about collection procedures. They also need to be properly trained on the testing equipment. It is imperative that manufacturer’s instructions are followed in order to ensure accuracy of test results. Staff collecting urine samples or performing urine tests should be trained directly by the manufacturer.

Proper best practice collection procedures that are followed will limit or prevent participants from attempting to subvert the test and ensure an accurate test result.

Drug Testing Nuts and Bolts – Parts One and Two

To listen to Part One on the Nuts and Bolts of Drug Testing, click here.

To listen to Part Two on the Nuts and Bolts of Drug Testing, click here.



[1] Brian MacKenzie, Judge (Ret.), David Wallace, JD., Drug Testing Manual 2nd Edition, Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals, Lansing Michigan 2017

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Drug Testing: A White Paper of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 2013

[6] Ibid

[7] Drug Testing Manual 2nd Edition

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

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