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How to Dispute a False Positive Drug Test

Chloe Meltzer | August 17, 2022

Drug tests aren't always fool proof. Here's how to prevent and dispute a false positive.

Summary: There are several reasons that your drug test might yield a false positive. Here is SoloSuit's guide on false positive drug tests, why they happen, and how to dispute them.

There are many reasons why you might be asked to take a drug test. It may be for employment at a private or governmental organization, but it could also be for participating and competing in sports. Another reason you might be asked to take a drug test is for court proceedings to prove you are no longer using drugs.

If you have never used drugs, then you may feel like you have nothing to worry about. Alternatively, if you have used drugs in the past but not recently, suddenly receiving a false positive might feel shocking. If you find yourself in this situation, you should look into how to dispute it.

What is detected in a drug test?

Drug tests can detect many different substances, but typically there are five to 10 common substances that drug tests focus on. Although custom tests can be ordered as well, the most common 5-panel tests detect the following substances:

  • Amphetamines: Stimulants, also known as “speed” or methamphetamine, are usually taken in tablet form, but can also be snorted in powder form or smoked. These drugs are very addictive and can result in insomnia, suicidal thoughts, sleep disorders, mood swings, depression, and heart attacks.
  • Cocaine: Also a stimulant, cocaine is usually snorted or smoked, and can be found in either powder or in crystalline “crack” form. It also induces extreme or manic behavior.
  • Opiates: These can be eaten, smoked, snorted, or injected and found in many forms. There is natural opium, codeine, and heroin which are highly addictive narcotics. They make the user sleepy or catatonic, and addicts go through painful drug withdrawal when deprived of the drug.
  • Phencyclidine (PCP): Known as “angel dust”, PCP can induce hallucinations, paranoia, and violent outbursts.
  • Marijuana (THC): Although legal in some areas of the country, marijuana is often smoked, “vaped,” or eaten in order to induce a high. It can reduce attention span and alertness. Although it is not known to be physically addictive, it can be habit-forming.

10-panel drug test

There is also a more comprehensive 10-panel drug test, in addition to the substances in the 5-panel test. These include:

  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone
  • Propoxyphene

What is considered a “false positive” drug test?

“False positive” drug tests occur when a drug test detects illegal or banned substances, but the person did not actually take the substance. There are many reasons why false positives can occur in drug tests: certain foods, medications, or other substances. Knowing that it is possible, how to avoid it, and how to dispute it, is very important should this happen to you.

Why would a drug test show a false positive?

Typically, a positive drug test indicates that there is a presence of some form of an illicit drug in the body. However, in some cases, it is possible to possess metabolic forms of illicit drugs in your system without actually having taken the drugs yourself. This false positive reading can be due to a few main reasons, such as:

  • Food.
  • Sudafed/Pseudoephedrine.
  • Ibuprofen.
  • Antiretroviral drugs.
  • Sertraline.
  • Poppy seeds.

Now, let's taken a minute to break down each of these possible reasons for a false positive drug test.

Certain foods can cause a false positive drug test

If you have consumed food that is very high in yeast, it may show up as a positive alcohol reading on a drug test. This is because ethanol is formed as a by-product of yeast. Examples of these types of food may include bread, ripe fruits, and pizza. Another example might include granola bars which are known to contain hemp seeds, which could bring a false positive for cannabis or THC.

Sudafed/Pseudoephedrine may results in a false positive drug test

Although Sudafed is a harmless substance often used to treat sinusitis, nasal congestion, and allergies, it can lead to a false positive on a drug test. This is due to manufacturers that use amphetamines to make Sudafed. When they are broken down in the body, they can lead to traces of methamphetamines or amphetamines being detected in the blood.

False positives might be caused by Ibuprofen

Ironically, ibuprofen can lead to a false positive. This over-the-counter medication can help with inflammation in the body, but it is also a member of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory class of drugs. Ibuprofen can lead to a false positive for cannabis, barbiturates, and PCP, but typically only for people who consume 800 to 1200 milligrams per day.

Antiretroviral drugs may cause a false positive

These drugs have efavirenz in them, which can be mistaken for benzodiazepines and marijuana in the blood during a drug test.

Sertraline can lead to a false positive

Sertraline is an antidepressant but can form traces of benzodiazepines detected by drug screening. This is because it has a similar chemical structure to both amphetamines and benzodiazepines.

Poppy seeds are known to yield a false positive on a drug test

Although extremely uncommon, poppy seeds are known to reveal a false positive on a drug test. Poppy seeds are used in porridge and muffins, as well as a treatment for constipation, diarrhea, sleeping difficulty, and cough. Despite this, poppy seeds contain traces of morphine and codeine in their natural state. Despite this, the DHHS raised the cut-off point of opiates to 1999 ng/ml. This has helped to avoid the false positive from poppies in most non-drug users.

How to dispute a false positive drug test

If you know you will be taking a drug test, you should disclose any and all substances before taking it. If you fail to disclose this, but you are sure that the test was a false positive, then you can take a few steps to dispute it:

  1. Re-test: Usually if you request a re-test, your original sample will be tested with more advanced methods. This is called a second confirmatory test.v
  2. Disclose substances you have taken: If you have been eating, or taking one of the substances that may have been called a false-positive, then you need to ask the lab to retest you. If you disclose this, then they may be able to give you a specific test that can help to bypass the false-positive interaction.

Overall, if you have received a false positive drug test, you really just need to let the testing site know that you would like to request a retest, and give them your reasons. However, be sure that you have not used drugs, or this will only be a confirmation of your positive result.

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