Whether you’re applying for a new job, getting a thorough checkup, or playing a regulated sport, you may be asked to take a drug test. If you aren’t taking illicit drugs, a drug test is a slight inconvenience at worst – but what if you fail a test when you aren’t using drugs? Believe it or not, drug tests aren’t error-proof, and you may receive positive results even if you don’t have any illegal substances in your system.
1. Faulty Testing
Urinalysis is the most common form of drug testing. It’s inexpensive, non-invasive and doesn’t cause pain or discomfort. However, urine testing can be inaccurate for several reasons. If the urine isn’t properly handled after the test, the results may be wrong. For precise drug test results, most medical providers recommend a blood test or hair strand analysis. While these two forms of testing are more inconvenient than urinalysis, they’re also less likely to produce false positives.
If you have a headache that won’t quit, it’s normal to take a couple of ibuprofen pills and hope for the best. Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are easily confused, but the two drugs affect your body differently. Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs known as NSAIDs, which stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs can show as a barbiturate or even THC when taken in high levels, so doctors recommend sticking to acetaminophen before a drug test, even though the risk of a false positive is still relatively low.
3. Cold Medicine
Sniffles, aching, uncontrollable coughing – being under the weather is never fun, but treating your symptoms could potentially cause even more serious problems. Dextromethorphan, or DXM, is sold under brand names like Robitussin and Delsym, and it’s often behind the counter because the substance is often abused. Even if you’re taking DXM to fight off a cold under a doctor’s supervision, you run the risk of a false positive drug test. The compound can cause users to test positive for PCP, a dissociative drug that can cause hallucinations.
4. Poppy Seeds
Hold the cream cheese – your favorite breakfast could cause unexpected trouble when taking a drug test. Delicious carbs like bagels, cakes and muffins can cause you to test positive for opiates, and it’s all thanks to poppy seeds. Experts recommend staying away from poppy seeds in the days leading up to a drug test to avoid a false positive.
5. Prescription Medications
Even if you’re completely drug-free, you might test positive for meth. We don’t blame you if you did a double take – it sounds unbelievable, but prescription medication can cause unexpected drug test results. Antidepressants may show up as amphetamines or methamphetamines on a drug test, while certain antibiotics may trigger a positive result for opioids.
What To Do If You Get A False Positive
If you receive news that you’ve failed a drug test even though you haven’t been taking illegal drugs, you’ll likely feel surprised, confused and upset. Most people who take drug tests need the results to be favorable, and it’s distressing when you haven’t done anything wrong. If you receive results that may be false positives, the most effective way to respond is by asking the testing facility to take a second, more precise test, like a blood draw. This may give you peace of mind and make the thought of a false positive a mere annoyance instead of a negative event with serious consequences.