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The Nuts and Bolts of Drug Testing

Part I

More than 2,300,000 Americans are currently incarcerated, about a quarter of these for drug offenses.[1]  Additionally, 80% of those in our prisons are either addicted to or abusing drugs[2]. Currently 40 states operate prison systems that are above 90% capacity; of those 23 are at about one hundred percent of capacity.[3] This means that some states are currently spending more on their prisons then on education.

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

Incarceration is clearly not an answer to drug addiction and the so-called “war on drugs” has simply failed. Almost 73% of the individuals incarcerated for drug related crimes are rearrested within two years of their release.[4] This failure rate would be unacceptable in almost any other institution and yet we tolerate it in our prison system.

A Better Approach

If there were no other answer, then perhaps it would be acceptable, but we know from recent statistics that there is a better approach. This approach, known as Drug Treatment Courts, targets individuals at high risk for reoffending and places them in a program that relies on the 10 Key Components of Drug Treatment Courts.[5]  These components form the basis of an approach that is far more successful then incarceration. A comparison of high risk offenders placed in a Drug Treatment Court shows that two years after their successful completion of a Drug Treatment Court the recidivism rate was only 25%, one third the re-arrest rate of incarceration alone.[6]

An important component of Drug Treatment Court’s is the emphasis placed on drug testing. In fact, it is one of the 10 Key Components: “abstinence is monitored by frequent random drug testing.”[7] An important study of Drug Courts found the testing was significantly related to both a reduction in drug use and recidivism.[8]

Drug Testing Programs

Drug Testing
A good drug-testing program provides deterrence;

A good drug-testing program provides deterrence; identifies clients who are using and who are abstinent; and, serves as an adjunct to treatment. There are many different ways to test for drugs: blood, breath, hair, sweat, oral fluids, and urine. Each have their advantages and disadvantages witch should be understood when selecting the appropriate approach to testing an individual defendant.

Part one of “The Nuts and Bolts of Drug Testing” gives you the basic information you need to determine why you should test and what test to use.

What do you think?

Top Ten Drug Testing Tips

Click here to get JSI’s publication on the Top Ten Drug Testing Tips for Implementation and Top Ten Drug Testing Tips for Observing Drug Testing.

Drug Testing Parts Two and Three

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

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



[1] DrugWarFacts.com

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010 U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics.

[5] 10 Key Components for Drug Courts

[6]  Drug Court Fact Sheet – ONDCP

[7] Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards, Volume II 

[8]The Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation: The Impact of Drug Courts.

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