A new report by the Institute for Medicine recommends the use of medical instruments that can be tested to see if they are safe to use for human use.
In a separate report, the organization also recommends that physicians use a standard set of tests for detecting dangerous and potentially harmful substances, including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels, in the blood and breath.
This means physicians should test for drugs like barbiturates, tranquilizers, and antidepressants, and should test their own blood and urine for alcohol.
But there are concerns that these tests could miss dangerous drugs or people, and that they may not be able to distinguish potentially harmful drugs from healthy people.
For example, when the National Institutes of Health in 2015 tested the urine of 2,500 people and found a significant level of barbiturate in just half, the agency didn’t specify which drugs were the culprits.
The problem with these tests, said Dr. Michael Schatz, director of the Institute on the Use of Medical Instruments at Columbia University Medical Center, is that they’re expensive and time-consuming.
“There’s a very, very small fraction of patients who actually get a positive result from these tests,” he said.
“There are a lot of questions that have to be answered before we can be confident that the tests are accurate, and these tests are expensive and they’re not always reliable.”
The new report from the Institute recommends that doctors should test the blood for alcohol, barbituates, tranquilizing agents, and other drugs and that the blood be tested again after the person has stopped using those drugs.
In the report, doctors are urged to:Consider using a standard of health care that includes a blood test for blood alcohol level, barcode, and breathalyzer results.
If a physician finds that the person’s blood is higher than that level, it’s important to follow-up and make a determination of whether the person was under the influence of the drugs tested or not.
The Institute also recommends the physician ask the person if they want to have their blood tested for other drugs.
And it recommends that when a physician tests for other dangerous drugs, it should test them for the drugs at the same level of risk.
If the blood test is negative, it could indicate that the drugs are not dangerous, said Schatz.
For instance, if a person’s alcohol level is three times the safe limit, a positive blood test would indicate that they had taken drugs that were not safe, he said, adding that the drug could then be tested at the highest possible level of danger.
“You can test the whole person at the most toxic level of exposure, and you have to have the drug test to prove that the toxic level is less than the safe level,” he added.
For some, this could be problematic.
Some physicians, like Dr. Mark M. Smith, have argued that doctors need to test their patients for drugs that are harmful to themselves or others in order to prevent the spread of deadly infections.
“It’s not a test for the risk of contracting a disease, it is a test to see whether the drug is causing you harm,” Smith said.
But Schatz disagreed, and said the use in this way is important because if it is determined that a person has tested positive for dangerous drugs and then tests negative, they could have been infected by the virus.
“The idea that you would need to have a drug test for a disease to prevent infection is not correct,” he explained.
“If the drug testing is a way to make sure that people don’t become infected by other people, then that is the way to go.”
But not all doctors agree with this.
For Dr. John J. Zweibel, an emergency room physician in Columbus, Ohio, a negative test for barbiturs can indicate that there is no reason to believe the person is infected.
He said that in his practice, he routinely tests for barcodes and carbon monoes.
Zweibel said he is not a fan of the current medical test for alcohol and barbituses.
For example the test is expensive and takes time, and the testing requires a physician to take the test multiple times to get it right, he explained, adding, “I do not want to see doctors take that test and then decide that they know the person well enough to test them again.”
However, if it turns out that the barbituars were not harmful, then they could be safely used, Zweidel said.
For more information on the National Institute of Health, visit: https://www.niih.nih.gov/index.html#newsletters