Drug testing has become a prerequisite in employment in many government and private sectors, healthcare, sports, schools and colleges, etc. It is also used as a tool to deter against any illicit or prescription drug abuse.
If you are a person against illicit substance abuse or use, it isn’t necessary that you will pass the drug test with ease. There are many common substances that we use every day such as food, medications, soaps, solvents, mouthwash, etc., that can cause an unexpected result. In such instances, you can demand for a repeat test if you are sure of not taking any illicit substances or alcohol.
Table of Contents
- To Dispute A False Positive Drug Test
- Federal Drug Testing Laws
- Ways to Dispute a False Positive Drug Test
- How Can False Positives Be Prevented?
- Testing and Re-Testing
Federal Drug Testing Laws
Employers frequently place drug and alcohol-free workplace programs to mitigate risks and deterrence as well as to improve productivity and benefits for employees and employers. Though at a national level, it is not required for most employers to have a specific drug testing program, but many states have established their own set of rules and regulations to ascertain a drug and alcohol-free work environments both in public as well as in private sectors.
An employee or a job candidate should understand the legality of the laws and an employer must take appropriate steps when an employee fails the drug test. Companies or employers are bound to deal with the cases of positive results in a coherent manner and there must be adequate time to contend the results before any disciplinary action takes place.
Though drug testing methods undergo refining process consistently to diminish false positives, there still can be possible occurrence of such results. If a false positive occurs, you can talk to your employer to determine the options available to you. It should also be noted that if you wish to challenge a positive test result, the process of appeal may vary according to the state or the company where it operates.
Ways to Dispute a False Positive Drug Test
If an employee or a potential hire disputes a false-positive test result, their appeal may vary from state to state. Union worksites also assist in filing grievances on behalf of an employee. In some instances, there are employers who give another chance to perform repeat test using a portion of the original sample collected at the initial visit. (Generally, initial samples collected will be divided into two portions to retest in case of inaccurate result.) In some cases, the person may have to bear the expenses for the process of second test themselves.
1. Ask for a repeat test as soon as possible.
It can be a nerve-racking situation when you get an inaccurate drug test result. Calm yourself down and bring it to the knowledge of the person who ordered the test. Explain you believe the result to be a false positive and would like to take up a second test to confirm it. If your employer is reluctant, say that you are willing to pay the expenses for the test yourself.
2. Reveal the substances you have been taking that might have caused inaccurate result.
If you were taking any over-the-counter cold medications, sleeping pills, allergy medications, antidepressants, NSAIDs, pain killers, etc., let your employer know about this and convince them you need a second chance to affirm that you haven’t used any drugs that have been tested for. The lab will perform more advanced test to verify the fact since every day substances can cause a false positive result.
3. Request a more advanced method of testing for verification.
You can request for advanced testing method to analyze different substances separately that could trigger a false positive. The gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) test and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) test are the standard secondary tests used for confirmation by most labs.
GC-MS test is very sensitive and most accurate, but it is time-consuming, expensive and requires very skilled technicians with good expertise. This test may cost over $300 if you are paying for the test.
4. Get assistance from your union or a private attorney.
If all your attempts failed to get a retest, you can consult with your union leader if you are a member. They will assist in filing a grievance on your behalf. You can also get assistance from a private attorney who might be able to guide you through the process.
Filing a grievance or legal challenge should be done as soon as possible so that any actions taken against you due to the test result can be delayed.
It should be noted that hiring an attorney can be expensive. It is better to know about their payment plans and options before proceeding.
How Can False Positives Be Prevented?
As we have already discussed in our previous blog, consumption of some everyday substances can trigger false positives though the US government has increased the detection thresholds for most drugs. To avoid such situations, you can follow few things before or on the day of the drug test.
1. Avoid consuming poppy seeds.
You can avoid eating food stuffs that contain poppy seeds such as pastries, bagels, muffins, etc., for at least 12 to 24 hours before taking up the test. Consuming high amounts of poppy seeds can trigger a false positive for OPI despite raised threshold (some labs may still be following the old threshold values).
If you are picked out for a random drug test, inform the person in-charge at the collection site if you consumed something with poppy seeds.
2. Stay away from people who smoke weed/secondhand smoke.
Though there are studies confirming that being around people who smoke weed doesn’t trigger a positive result for THC, it is better to keep off from weed smokers and passive inhalation of weed smoke. It would be wise to avoid such scenarios for about 24 hours or more before taking up your drug test.
Weed is still considered illegal federally, though some states have legalized recreational weed use.
3. Obtain prescriptions for medications from your doctor.
Drug tests are generally performed to determine the traces of illegal substances. Some prescription medications may mimic illicit substances and therefore, if you are taking any prescription medications under the guidance of a healthcare provider, it would be wise to obtain and keep a record of those prescriptions.
You can disclose your prescriptions in order to avoid false positives. You can also check with your healthcare provider to determine if any of the prescription medications you take could interfere with drug test. If so, disclose it before taking the drug test. It would help the lab technician to delineate between prescription medications and illicit drugs.
Testing and Re-Testing
Drug testing labs re-test the samples that return positive and try to eliminate the possibility of a false positive. They use advanced and more sensitive testing methods (GC-MS and HPLC) to confirm the positive result. These testing methods give extremely precise results and have the tendency to differentiate between the target substances and chemicals that mimic the illicit substances.
Drug tests have become very common for employment and are conducted to deter employees from illicit substance and alcohol use as well as to shortlist potential new hires. This initiation tends to provide a safe work environment and decrease liabilities.
If you have been administered a drug test and tested positive for illicit substances, don’t panic. Inform the person who ordered the drug test and state that you suspect the result to be false positive. Ask for a re-test to confirm the result. If your employer is reluctant about re-testing, you can convince them by expressing your willingness to pay the expenses for the test.
If your attempts to re-test have failed, you can consult your union leader who can help in filing grievance on behalf of you if you are a member. Else, you can take the help of a private attorney to fight against a false-positive drug test.
The likelihood of false positives has been brought down by continuously refining the sensitivity of the testing panels by the manufacturers of the immunoassay test materials. Certified testing labs verify the positive results by confirmatory method such as GC-MS or HPLC testing, which is very sensitive and provide accurate results.
False positives are a possibility with workplace drug testing, but a well-planned and implemented drug testing policy can reduce such occurrences and provide a drug-free workplace.