Are drugs still escaping detection in the family courts?

Drug tests are a valuable tool in assisting the court in the assessment of substance misuse in an individual. Sample collectors take a detailed history from the client regarding their current and previous substance misuse, but also gather information regarding the patient’s prescribed and over-the-counter medication intake.

Is this unreliable?

As this history is provided by the client – it may not always be reliable. We’ve put together a few things that can interfere with getting the full picture when family court hair testing.

1. Active deception by the parent

Individuals know what they’ve taken but they’re not being honest… claiming abstinence or misuse of softer drugs. This might be because they believe that the drugs they have taken won’t be detected after hair treatments.

2. Genuine ignorance

They may not actually know what drugs they have taken. They could have already been intoxicated while they took them or have shared pills with other users.

3. Memory problems

Can’t recall what they took over a period of time and they may have “lost track” of the substances they have taken. As a chaotic lifestyle can cause memory problems, it’s obvious why this could be an issue…

4. Parent has been deceived

Drug dealers aren’t known for their honesty. So, the client has taken one thing, thinking it was another (the old switcheroo!). It’s quite common for the more expensive drug cocaine to be laced with amphetamine, or even replaced by that drug.

5. Contamination

Obviously, illicit drugs are unregulated and don’t come with an “ingredients” list. It’s not unusual for a user to unknowingly buy drugs that are contaminated with other substances, potentially leading to other drugs going undetected in the test. ‘Party Drugs’ such as ecstasy pills are notorious for their lack of purity…

6. Drug Combinations

“Polysubstance” misuse is far more common than reported.  (Polysubstance abuse can include the combination of any substance to alter the body and/or brain.) It may mean that we are only testing for one drug when there’s actually a mix. Again, this could leave certain drugs undetected.

The effect of diverted prescription drugs on child custody cases
Why is this important?

This is important because many drugs interact when taken together, they may combine to have different effects and intensify intoxication.

These effects impact a parent’s behaviour, making them more emotionally labile and unpredictable, making the drugs more dangerous to the parent and in turn their child. Combinations of opiates, including over-the-counter drugs like codeine, when mixed with heroin or methadone can lead to an accidental overdose.

The effects of parents with drug and alcohol problems on children

All of this means there are still ways for drugs to go undetected in the Family Courts.

So what’s the answer?

At Atkinson Lewis, we offer a 9 panel drugs test. This identifies the most common substances in Classes A-C, giving a more comprehensive representation of a client’s drug misuse. Avoiding any drugs slipping through the cracks with family court hair testing.

 “In my experience, it is unusual for a client to only be using one substance and I would always recommend robust drug screening to include all substances” – Dr Cath Pyves.

The 9-panel drug test is the most cost-effective way of hair testing – at a fraction of the price of individual hair drug tests.

The 9-Panel Drug Test:

The standard 9 Panel Drug Test was established as the best way to detect the most common drugs:

  1. Cocaine (CLASS A)
  2. Opiates  (CLASS A)
  3. Methadone  (CLASS A)
  4. Amphetamine (CLASS B)
  5. Methamphetamines (CLASS B)
  6. Cannabinoids (CLASS B)
  7. Ketamine  (CLASS B)
  8. Benzodiazepines  (CLASS C)
  9. Tramadol  (CLASS C)
How hair drug testing can identify recreational vs dependent misuse
Hair Drug Testing - 9 panel drug tests

The 9 Panel Test has been a staple part of the investigation process since it was introduced by Dr Rosemary Atkinson in 2000.

9 Panel Drug Test and Family Court Hair Testing

We would urge any Family Judge or Family Law Solicitor to order the 9 Panel Drug Test as standard. As safeguarding professionals, we all believe that we can only achieve the best interests of the child through the standard test, and we are there to ensure it. Plus further drug screening for any additional substances declared or suspected by any party.

Why should we use hair segmentation in drug tests?
Why a medical interpretation is beneficial

We also advise that a lab test is only one part of the story. The court needs to understand the effects of any drug combinations we identify, and this can’t be determined at a generic level.

It takes a formal process of Medical Interpretation, based on the client’s drug and medical history, prescriptions, lifestyle, behavioural changes and more.

Only then can we show how diverted prescription meds – and other drugs – will affect the parent, and in turn, identify the true risk to the child.

For more on drug testing and our medical review process, click here.

How Can We Help You Today?

We’re here to assist with private and public law cases in the Family Courts. If you’ve got a question, need a cost or you’re ready with an instruction, give us some details and we’ll get back to you quickly.