STUDY OBJECTIVES: Drugs and psychoactive substances can cause sleepiness and when undetected, may lead to over diagnosis of central hypersomnias. We performed urine drug testing using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in adults undergoing multiple sleep latency testing (MSLT) for a suspected central hypersomnia. We examined how the drug test results modified the treating physician's diagnosis.
METHODS: One hundred eighty-six consecutive patients with a suspected central hypersomnia who underwent clinical assessment, MSLT and urine drug testing by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry were retrospectively studied. Physicians made a diagnosis after clinical assessment and MSLT and were initially blinded to the urine drug test results.
RESULTS: A third of patients assessed for subjective hypersomnia had a positive urine drug test for a substance affecting sleep. Opioids, cannabis, and amphetamines were the commonest drugs detected. Using MSLT, 35 (18.8%) of 186 patients had objective hypersomnia that may have been due to a drug or substance. Drugs or substances may have confounded the MSLT in 11 (20.1%) of 53 patients who fulfilled diagnostic criteria for idiopathic hypersomnia, and 12 (52%) of 23 of those who fulfilled diagnostic criteria for narcolepsy without cataplexy. Of the 75 positive urine drug samples, 61 (81%) were substances or medications not revealed in the physician interview. The treating physician had not suspected drugs or substances as a possible cause of objective hypersomnia in 34 (97%) of the 35 patients.
CONCLUSIONS: Drugs and psychoactive substances can confound the results of the MSLT and when undetected could lead to over diagnosis of central hypersomnias.