Toxicology Testing for Drugs and Poisons

This information is useful for children, adults, and older adults
Why Yale Medicine?
  • Yale Medicine uses up-to-date testing techniques because a quick diagnosis means more effective treatment.
  • Our healthcare providers work together to perform quick, accurate testing.
  • We know which tests need to be repeated several times because not all poisons show up instantly.

If you have consumed, touched, or inhaled something that has altered your mental state or is making you ill, you may require the expertise of Yale Medicine toxicologists to figure out what has happened to you. Toxicology is used to trace the causes of unexplained symptoms in a variety of situations.

Toxicology, which originated as the study of poisons, “has evolved into a broad, highly diverse field whose goal is to determine and manage the effects of chemical agents on living systems,” says Roa Harb, MD, director of the clinical chemistry laboratory at Yale Medicine and assistant professor of laboratory medicine at Yale School of Medicine. 

For example, when a patient comes to the emergency room with an unexplained altered mental state, doctors need to narrow down the cause. Physicians will ask questions to determine what the patient might have consumed or come into contact with. They will also order a sample of the patient’s blood which will be analyzed by Yale Medicine's clinical chemists.

Practically anything can become a poison if you've ingested too much of it. That includes seemingly harmless substances, such as prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, herbal and nutritional supplements. They can be more overtly harmful substances such as metals and illicit drugs, as well as everyday substances like pesticides, household products, occupational toxins and environmental toxins.

Clinical Trials

New treatments for many conditions are tested in clinical trials, which ultimately bring lifesaving new drugs and devices to the patients who need them most. By participating in a clinical trial, you may get access to the most advanced treatments for your condition, and help determine their benefits for future patients.