What You Need To Know About Pre-Employment Drug Testing

I recently had to undergo drug testing at my place of employment and I didn’t pass. To tell the story correctly though, I need to take you back in time about 20 years. 

Pre-Employment Drug Test - Failed
Drug Results – Failed

I was married at the time, and my husband found a job he really wanted.  He was offered the position contingent on his passing a drug screen.  Long story short, he failed the drug screen.  He blew his stack, threw his tantrum, SWORE he had been clean for the test, and claimed that there was NO way he could have failed the drug test.  Unfortunately, I knew he would go off and see his cousin quite often during the week, and that they both “partied” REAL hard during his visits.  So, when he swore he was clean for the test, I was busy rolling my eyes, thinking about his cousin and him, and basically blew him off.  I was extremely sceptical, to put it bluntly.  

Failing The Test

Now, fast forward almost 20 years, I’m in a similar situation.  I failed a pre-employment drug screen. I have been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, Antiphospholipid Antibodies (try saying THAT one 3 times fast!), Hypothyroidism, Vitamin D Deficiency, Fibromyalgia, and finally, Sleep Apnea.  I was on Fluoxitine, Ranitidine, AND Loratidine, all of which could possibly test positive for Amphetimine.  I was also on Tramadol, which could have tested positive for Opiates. 

Of course, the first thing I say is that my doctor either knows about everything I take or has been the one who prescribed it to me.  My boss, being a very understanding guy, tells me that if I can figure out what medicine it is, and if I can do without it a few days, he would get me another drug test, but I would have to pay for it.

I didn’t know any better, but I suspected it was my anti-depressant, so I went for 5 days without it.  BAD move!!  I redid the drug screen and failed once again.  I was fired that day.  I almost had a nervous breakdown to go along with it (no antidepressants and all).  I went back to the testing laboratory.  They got permission from my now-previous employer to give me copies of both test results, then the manager of the lab took pity on me and explained how drug testing works.

Lab Testing for Pre-Employment Drug Screening
Lab testing for Pre-Employment Drug Screening

The Drug Testing Process

• First, the sample is taken and tested.  

• The results are then sent back to the prospective employer, and, if the employee fails the drug test, the lab asks the employer if they want to confirm the results.  

• When the lab asks if the company wants to confirm, it does NOT mean do the same test a second time on the same urine.  It means they want to put the sample through a Gas Chromatograph/ Mass Spectrometer, so that they can identify the exact chemical compound that is causing the enzymes to react, to see whether or not it is a compound that is legal or not.  

• The company will encourage you to “clean up”, drink lots of fluids, and try to pass a NEW test, rather than confirm the results.

• What the company wants you to do is take a wild guess on what MAY be affecting your drug screen, and then get you off of it so you MIGHT pass the drug screen.  The lab will be doing the exact same test on different urine, expecting different results.  

• If you guess wrong, you will STILL test positive for whatever it was, you will STILL lose your job, and you will have ZERO recourse because you used your second shot on a re-test, rather than a confirmation.

I found this out several days later, after discovering this handy guide to drug testing.  It told me everything I needed to know about what COULD have shown up on my drug test.

So, the moral of the story is, if you KNOW you aren’t doing anything illegal, go for the confirmation rather than the retest, EVERY TIME.

Pamela K. Oakes is 48 years old and has suffered from Fibromyalgia for about 5 years.  She lives in Louisiana with her three dogs.  She has a vested interest in helping people in similar situations to her own, and seeks to educate people about her illness and how best to deal with it.

One Reply to “What You Need To Know About Pre-Employment Drug Testing”

  1. Waaaait a minute. The resource you posted (thanks!) mentioned false positives for Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA) in employer drug test… Does this mean that employers can look at whether you have antidepressants in your system when deciding whether to hire you?? Also, if someone in your situation would have then clarified that they were not taking “drugs” drugs, just prescriptions that caused false positives… Is there even a way to do that without compromising your private medical information? Because I would be worried that information about medications/illnesses would be used against an applicant. I know that LEGALLY you can’t deny someone a job because they have a disability, but what is to legally stop the employer from saying “We just don’t feel like you’re a good fit, so we’ve chosen to go with another candidate” ?
    Sorry those are a lot of questions! My head is just spinning from the possible civil rights implications here. I’m not super familiar with how the specifics of employee drug testing works. And to the author, I’m sorry you had to go through that. Thanks for sharing!

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