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Mil Med. 2011 Apr;176(4):451-3.

Acute water intoxication during military urine drug screening.

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Wilford Hall Medical Center, 2200 Bergquist Drive, Suite 1, Lackland AFB, TX 78236, USA.


Random mandatory urine drug screening is a routine practice in the military. The pressure to produce a urine specimen creates a temptation to consume large volumes of water, putting those individuals at risk of acute water intoxication. This occurs when the amount of water consumed exceeds the kidney's ability to excrete it, resulting in hyponatremia owing to excess amount of water compared to serum solutes. The acute drop in serum osmolality leads to cerebral edema, causing headaches, confusion, seizures, and death. There has been increasing awareness of the danger of overhydration among performance athletes, but dangers in other groups can be underappreciated. We present the case of a 37-year-old male Air Force officer who developed acute water intoxication during urine drug screening. Our case demonstrates the need for a clear Air Force policy for mandatory drug testing to minimize the risk of developing this potentially fatal condition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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