Have you heard about the Toxicology Resource Guide? It was developed by toxicology experts working with Illuminate Colorado, the Colorado Office of Children, Youth, & Families and Children’s Hospital.

The Toxicology Resource Guide was developed to support Colorado Child Welfare Professionals in understanding substances, possible effects, and the utility and application of toxicology testing to enhance practice.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What is toxicology, you ask? Well, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Studies, “Toxicology is a field of science that helps us understand the harmful effects of chemicals, substances, or situations, as well as the dose-response of the chemical or substance a person is exposed to.” In other words, toxicology helps us understand the impacts that substances have on our minds and bodies.   

Okay, so what are the impacts of substance use?

Substance use increases risk not only to the user, but also to any children in their care. Effects like inattentiveness and impaired decision making that impact the caregiver also affect child safety. As a result, the misuse of substances is directly linked to adverse childhood experiences, neglect and abuse. Children of substance users are more likely to use substances themselves, so youth substance use is itself a related problem.

That seems pretty straightforward. Why do we need a resource guide?

Drug testing is just one aspect of determining how concerned we need to be about a family’s substance use and is best done in conjunction with clinical examination and/or observation of behavior, environment, and evaluation of the entire situation. That said, drug testing is particularly complicated since each drug, patient and case is different. There are no universal rules with drug testing.

The complexity of drug testing makes a reference guide like the Toxicology Resource Guide beneficial for those who work directly with children and families that may be impacted by substance use. This guide is filled with accurate, evidence-based information about substances, toxidromes, testing and signs associated with the use and misuse of substances.

Don’t know what a toxidrome is? The Glossary of Terms is a strong foundation of useful information for caseworkers who are often tasked with interpreting clinical reports despite not being trained on the basic terminology contained within them.

But the greatest strength of the guide is the insight it may provide to professionals who use urinalysis exams and other types of tests in their work. Throughout the guide, red light bulbs with critical thinking tips remind professionals that the results from a drug test must be viewed within the context of the situation, that negative results do not ensure safety for children, and that positive results do not guarantee that abuse or neglect has occurred. A drug test is just one piece of the puzzle.

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