Drug Testing Volume and Cost A Mathematical Perspective

How important is drug testing to the overall drug-court experience? As stated earlier, drug testing provides the objective standard by which to measure a participant's progress and level of compliance. A December 2003 report by the Bureau of Justice Assistance Drug Court Clearinghouse at American University (5) stated that 1098 drug courts were operational at that time. A 2001 Drug Court Clearinghouse study (6) reported a moving total of nearly 80,000 active participants at any given time. Using the standard model of three drug tests per week during the first 3 mo in the program, two tests per week during the next 3 mo, and once per week during the final 6 mo, the average drug-court participant is drug tested 84 times during the first 12 mo in drug court. This does not take into account that many participants do not complete Pphase I in the minimum 3-mo period and that subsequent relapses result in a return to Phase I and its more frequent testing schedule. Length of stay in drug court actually ranges from 6 mo to 24 mo, resulting in an average testing volume of 120 tests per participant. Using the 80,000 participants figure, 9,600,000 drug panels were administered to drug-court participants during 2003. As the number of active drug courts increases and the costs associated with testing respond to competitive market conditions and decline, the volume of POC drug screens, instrumented tests, and tests using other methodologies should all increase.

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