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1.4.4 Alcohol and other drug issues - drug testing

Last Modified: 22-Mar-2022 Review Date: 02-Jan-2018

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation


The Department of Communities (the Department) uses drug testing as a tool to work with parents whose drug use impacts their capacity to keep their children safe.  Parent's drug use can be assessed by either urinalysis (UA) or hair testing.  

The Department prefers UA testing (examination of a sample of urine) because it is accessible and affordable.  We have an MOU agreement for provision of services with Pathwest, although another provider may be used if it is not practical to use Pathwest.

Drug tests must only be used when it is clear that a parent's drug use may be impacting on their functioning and ability to safely care for a child, and you need more information to ascertain the type, level and pattern of drug use. 

Refer to the Drug Testing Policy and the section 'Assessing parenting capacity and risk of harm' in Chapter 1.4 Alcohol and other drug issues.

Drug tests provide information on:

  • what drugs are being used
  • the amount of use
  • whether use is increasing or decreasing, and
  • chronicity.

Drug testing cannot provide information on:
  • quantity of drug use (dose administered)
  • frequency of use, and
  • the extent of physical or psychological dependency.

They may be useful as a one off or as series of tests to confirm or dispute reasonable suspicion of parental substance misuse.  Using results of parents' drug testing identifies the pattern and quantity of their drug use.  Establish this clearly with parents and in your case planning, align pattern's and quantity of drug use to the case planning goals, i.e. reduced use and safety planning.

  • You must consult with and obtain your team leader's (TL) approval for drug testing.

  • Before commencing UA, you must advise parents that failure to appear for a test will be recorded as a positive result.

  • You must consult with their your TL when reviewing the use of UA to confirm that it is still required for case planning.

Information and Instructions

  • Planning drug testing
  • Supporting parents
  • Where to access urinalysis testing
  • How to access urinalysis testing
  • Interpreting urinalysis test results for case planning
  • Sharing urinalysis testing information
  • Planning drug testing

    Substances that can be detected by US testing

    • Amphetamine type compounds – e.g. ice, speed and ecstasy
    • Benzodiazepines – e.g. valium and diazepam
    • Cannabis metabolites – e.g. marijuana
    • Cocaine metabolites
    • Opiates – e.g. heroin, codeine, and morphine
    • Buprenorphine
    • Methadone metabolite
    • Synthetic cannabis

    When planning drug testing for parents, consider the frequency and duration of testing, and the type of testing (random or scheduled testing or a combination of both).  You may seek advice from drug testing providers or drug specialists to determine testing schedules.

    Frequency of testing 

    Refer to the table below when scheduling UA testing and consider the time in which drugs can be detected. The table provides a general indication of how long drugs can be identified in UA testing.

    If cannabis is the drug being misused, less frequent testing is appropriate given the length of time the drug stays in the body.

    If the types of drugs being misused are unknown, UA testing two-three times a week may be suitable. 

    Duration of testing

    Take into account the history of the parent's drug misuse when considering the duration of planned drug testing.  It may be appropriate to have either:

    • one-off testing (that could be repeated), or
    • a schedule of testing.

    One-off testing may be useful to manage a parent’s denied drug misuse. A schedule of testing over a timeframe of one to three months may be useful to demonstrate reduced or increased use of drugs.

    Random or scheduled testing

    Random UA testing is preferred over scheduled tests because it minimises the potential for parent manipulation. You should notify the parent on the morning of the drug test, to reduce opportunities for parents to manipulate the results. 

    Parents not attending a drug test

    Where there is no legitimate reason for a parent not attending fro drug testing, record the result as a positive due to non-compliance. If the parent does not attend for drug testing when required, ask them to provide a UA test the nest day, unless there are legitimate circumstances, such as illness or bereavement. 

    Reviewing the use of urinalysis testing

    Regularly assess whether UA testing is still required to provide information on type, level and pattern of drug use. Review the use of testing when:

    • positive results occur over a period and there is little evidence of behaviour change and/or engagement with AOD services, or 
    • negative results occur over a period; this may show evidence of behaviour change and less frequent testing may be more appropriate.

    Team leaders should review their teams' use of testing and align with the Drug Testing Policy and this entry.

    Hair testing 

    Although UA testing is the preferred method, you can consider using hair drug testing if it costs less than UA testing and/or the information required in relation to type, level and pattern of drug use is only able to be ascertained through this method. 

    Hair drug testing can provide a long term picture (pattern) of drug misuse in a one-off testing process.  You should contact the hair drug testing provider to discuss the types of drugs that can be detected, limitations in testing and obtain a quote on the total cost. The cost is determined by the type and level of analysis required and can be very expensive. the quote must be approved by a TL before this type of testing is done. Refer to the Drug Testing Guide for further information.


    Supporting parents

    You should always assist parents to access Community Alcohol and Drug Services (CADS) in conjunction with the use of drug tests. Refer to 'Referral and collaboration' in Chapter 1.4 Alcohol and other drug issues.


    Where to access urinalysis testing

    The Department and Pathwest have a Memorandum of Understanding for the provision of UA testing at a set low fee.  

    When choosing a UA test provider choose: 

    • the lowest fee 
    • a location that is reasonably convenient for the parent to attend, and 
    • check that the UA test will be supervised during the test.  

    For more information refer to the Pathwest website for provider locations and billing information, and the MOU - Department and NMHS Pathwest for the provision of drug detection service (all in related resources). 


    How to access urinalysis testing

    You and your TL should agree that UA testing is required and why, before proceeding. 

    1. Obtain the parent client's consent for UA and record on the client's file.  Complete and ask the client to sign the Drug Testing - Agreement for Urinalysis Testing (also in related resources).

    2. Create an electronic' Donor Card for the client:

      1. Take a photograph of the client for the electronic Donor Card.

      2. Complete the details on the Donor Card including substances that will be tested for.

    3. For clients attending PathWest, also complete the Chain of Custody and Request Form (in related resources)

    4. Send the completed electronic Donor Card and Chain of Custody and Request Form by email to the selected pathology provider for their records and give a hard copy given to the client. The pathology provider will review this information on their system each time the client presents to provide a urine sample. If a client needs to present to a different collection centre or pathology provider, send the Donor Card and Form to  the alternative pathology provider.

    5. The pathology provider will email or fax the results to you. 

    6. When the fee for service is received, action payment through the payment request screen in Assist.


    Interpreting urinalysis test results for case planning

    Interpreting UA results can be complex., Results may detect the use of prescription drugs but it may be difficult to determine if the levels of consumption indicate that the prescribed drugs are being abused.  You can seek assistance from pathology providers (free of charge).

    Contact pathology providers to clarify whether a parent's explanation regarding a positive result is valid. 

    Sharing urinalysis testing information

    Urinalysis tests may be used in Court as a result of criminal charges, conditions of parole or Community Service Orders. For mutual clients, separate testing by the Department is not required. A signed consent for the release and exchange of information between the Corrective Services and the Department allows officers to access test results.