False Positive During Field Drug Testing: What To Do Next?

False Positive During Field Drug Testing: What To Do Next?


A false positive is when field drug testing gives a "positive" result when no drugs are present in reality. Assuming you've been accused of a crime or told you're going to be drug tested for another reason, you must find what gave the false positive before doing anything else. 

For decades police have used these tests to detect the presence of illegal drugs while on duty, while performing traffic stops, etc. They are affordable, easy to use, and a great way to test suspects at any time.

In most field tests, the police officer collects a part of the substance in question into a vial of pink liquid. If the liquid turns blue, the substance is considered an illegal drug. In some cases, however, there can be false positives.

These indicate that the sample did not contain any illegal substances, resulting in an arrest for drug possession or even legal complications for any other crime. You should also make sure that you've heard and understood everything that's been said about your test result. 

It can be a sensitive situation due to the implications of this result. However, if you know what to do next, you'll be able to reduce any possible stress or repercussions related to this field drug test. 

Table Of Contents:

What Is A Field Drug Test?

A field drug test is a process of detecting the presence of certain illicit or illegal drugs in a person's body, performed on-site. These types of tests are highly sensitive and can detect tiny amounts of drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, MMJ, designer drugs, and more. 

The primary purpose of a field drug test is to detect the presence of illicit substances. They are commonly used by law enforcement agencies on-site, to determine whether they need to continue an investigation of a specific person (for example, in cases where someone has previously failed a drug test at work), and further tests should be performed on that person. 

However, field drug tests are very common in the military more than anything else. U.S. military personnel undergo testing when they enter the service and throughout their careers, often using these tests to maintain security clearances. 

There is an allegation that field drug tests have the highest possibility of showing false positives. Many people have gone to jail or prison for drug-related offenses based on a false positive. A false positive is when you test "positive" for a drug that you do not have in your body, either because it's not present or your body has been somehow altered so that it's no longer detectable. It can happen occasionally but is especially common with field drug tests.

How Reliable Is The Field Drug Test?

The reliability of the field drug test varies greatly, depending on the brand and model used. Some tests have extremely high accuracy levels and can detect even minute traces of smaller amounts of cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy, opiates, and MMJ. 

Conversely, some of the tests have very low levels of accuracy and will only detect very small amounts of these drugs. Note that numerous studies have been conducted in drug tests to examine the prevalence of false positives and the accuracy level of these tests. Some of these studies indicate a very low number of false positives. 

For example, one 2009 study by the DEA found that only between 2 and 10 percent of all positive tests during the field drug tests were false positives. Another 2006 study by the U.S. Department of Defence estimated that false positives cause as many as 35 percent of positive drug test results. A 2011 study by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration determined that 7% of positive field drug tests are due to false positives.

Additionally, the results of these drug tests cannot be used in court because they lack the necessary quality control testing required to identify and quantify drugs in the system properly. They are not usually used to charge people with crimes but can be used as a starting point for further investigation into someone's actions.

What Causes False-Positive Results On A Field Drug Test?

Multiple factors can cause false positives in a field drug test. What you're testing for, the types of drugs being tested for, and how you take or use the drug are all factors that will influence the test result. 

Humans are constantly exposed to different chemical substances that can cause a false positive drug test. and this exposure can cause some compounds to react in a way that the body does not expect them to. It is what causes false positives in a field drug test. 

The method in which the test is conducted, stored, and analyzed can cause a false positive. For example, in the case of field tests, many police officers store their samples in bottles or vials that are not sterile. 

It can lead to residues from other substances (like certain medicines) being present in the drug sample when it is tested. Additionally, many police officers are not properly trained in performing the field drug test and, therefore, can make mistakes in the collection process.

Moreover, the way a person takes or uses the drug can influence how the test detects the drug and if it remains detectable or not. It is why some drugs cannot be detected in a field drug test for long, even if they are present in someone's system at the time of testing.

It's important to note that field drug tests are not perfect. They have been proven to be less accurate than lab-based tests and react to various chemicals differently. More importantly, a field drug test detects any chemical that shares a similar chemical structure to illicit drugs. 

It is why you may be testing positive for cocaine, even if you don't use any drugs. Taking medication or using legal substances such as poppy seeds or poppy seed bagels can cause a false positive in a field drug test, even though they are completely harmless when used properly. It is also why a person can test positive for marijuana even if they don't smoke it.

What To Do If You Get A False Positive On A Field Drug Test?

When asked to take a field drug test, many people roll the dice, believing that they won't have to worry about it if they don't test positive. However, as mentioned above, these tests are imperfect and can often cause false positives. 

Suppose you end up testing positive on one of these tests, you should not panic. Rather, you should know how to dispute a false positive drug test. In that case, it's important to follow up with a more reliable testing method so that you can get the results you deserve and explain your situation effectively. 

Even if you're falsely positive for drugs through a field drug test, you don't have to face a criminal conviction based on this test. There are several ways to confront and correct false positives. First off, you should use the resources provided by your state's department of health or public health to determine what is present in your system and what constitutes a false positive. 

Also, a lab technician or medical professional can remove the substance from your body if it interferes with the field drug test. It is especially helpful if you consume medication that contains ingredients that might be detected.

Secondly, you can submit a request to be retested by a medical professional or lab technician. This test will be more accurate and allow the professionals to determine whether or not you have drugs in your system. 

It is essential to note that you must ask for this test within 30 days of the initial field drug test. If you have been arrested based on field drug tests, consult with an experienced attorney immediately. 

Your attorney can help you determine if you have established a false positive for this drug test, why it occurred and if there are any other ways to verify the accuracy of the field drug test. Lastly, there are many other types of drug tests that you can take to prove that you are completely free of illegal substances in your body. 

The industry is developing new drug testing methods every day, and one may be developed to exclude drugs from a field drug test specifically.

What Are The Tips For An Officer To Perform A Field Test Properly?

There is no surefire way to avoid a false-positive result in a field drug test. However, there are certain things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a false positive.

Suppose you are law enforcement or a police officer, it is recommended that you wash your hands with antibacterial soap before the collection process and thoroughly check the integrity of the test kit.

It is also recommended that law enforcement officers wear gloves while collecting samples to avoid any foreign contamination that could cause a false positive. Additionally, law enforcement officers must follow the precise instructions for each test kit and be very careful in the collection process.

Lastly, if you're going to conduct a field drug test, it's also recommended that you try to use the most appropriate drug test for the substance in question. For example, when testing for marijuana possession in states where it's legal to possess, it's recommended that you use a urine test instead of a hair follicle drug test.


False positives are possible from the types of field drug tests that we use today. However, the testing industry and governments worldwide are working together to ensure that falsely accused people will not suffer from these false assumptions, especially when their lives may be on the line. 

Moreover, suppose you receive a false positive on a field drug test. In that case, you should always consult with a medical professional or lab technician before making any decisions about your case. Sometimes the best way to prove that you're not using illegal drugs is simply by using a different method to prove it.


Does any prescribed medication lead to a false positive in a field drug test?

Yes. Many medications contain ingredients that can trigger a false positive on a field drug test. The list of prescription medications that may cause false positives is expansive and varies from one individual to another. 

However, some of the common ones include stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin, painkillers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, bipolar medications, and ADHD drugs like Strattera.

Can any food product cause a false positive in a field drug test?

Yes. Foods and beverages may cause false positives if they contain an ingredient that reacts with the test to create a false positive. Some common foods and ingredients may cause false positives; peppermint schnapps, vinegar, and poppy seeds. 

However, a false positive is often created by prescription medications containing ingredients found in food products.

Can I flush my system of these false positives if I know what caused them?

Again, this situation requires professional advice from your local lab technician or medical professional. 

Your body may be able to get rid of these medicines in a few days without any assistance, so it's best to first consult with someone who can determine whether or not this is possible and whether or not it would be safe for you to do so.

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