What happens if you take a prescribed drug and it shows up on a drug test? Should you tell the person giving the drug test about the prescribed medications?

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    Welcome to the Workplace -- unfortunately in its current form, this question is not something we can answer, because it depends on who your employer is and the company who is administering your test. – mcknz May 6 '19 at 16:26
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    see also workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/63515/… – mcknz May 6 '19 at 16:27
  • Hi, Welcome to the Workplace, you should probably ask this in law.stackexchange.com adding more information about where are you from and your contract. – Sebastian Aguerre May 6 '19 at 19:01
  • What jurisdiction is this in? – marcelm May 7 '19 at 10:54

What happens if you take a prescribed drug and it shows up on a drug test?

That depends on the goals of the test and of the specific prescribed drug in question.

In some cases you will "fail" the test. In other cases, it won't matter.

Should you tell the person giving the drug test about the prescribed medications?

Yes. Before taking the test, you should tell the drug tester about any prescribed medications that you suspect might influence the test.

When I was drug tested, the form specifically asked that you list all prescribed medication you are currently taking.

Note that you are never required to tell anyone what medications you are taking. Many prescribed drugs wouldn't impact the test at all. You could choose not to disclose your medicines and hope that it doesn't cause the test to be failed.

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    I wonder when it became ok to reveal your medication and thus likely giving away your medical conditions where it should usually read "Hey employer, nice of you to ask but that's none of your business"? – Ghanima May 6 '19 at 19:03
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    @GregSchmit, I certainly understand that, still it's none of the employer's business to know what sort of medical conditions an employee has. Obviously that also reduces your pool of potential employers if they choose to act on that knowledge. – Ghanima May 6 '19 at 19:13
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    @Ghanima I think it's a cost-benefit balance. The employer doesn't need to know your condition, just that you have a valid prescription for the drug in question. They may be able to infer a condition, but that seems reasonable when the other option is to employ criminals. I think employers have the right to not hire people who are using illegal drugs. In the real world this is usually mediated by a 3rd party that does the drug testing and also validates your prescriptions and just tells the employer "pass" or "fail" (where being caught using your prescription medication counts as a "pass"). – Greg Schmit May 6 '19 at 19:17
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    Using a drug test to circumvent the legal protections preventing an employer from asking for an employee or candidate's health records doesn't exactly sound right to me. – millimoose May 6 '19 at 19:19
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    @millimoose Most places have laws to protect you from this sort of discrimination. "When a medical review officer (MRO) physican reviews a drug test result that is “positive” for a legitimately prescribed medication, the MRO reports the drug test as being “negative” to the company. If the MRO determines that the medication is potentially sedating or impairing, the MRO will alert the company to this risk, but would not disclose the employee’s diagnosis, or the name of the specific medication." Source – David K May 6 '19 at 20:16

Absolutely. First, you should be telling them the total list of every medication you are taking, just because that's usually a good idea when dealing with medical professionals.

Second, you should tell them so you can directly ask them whether any of these drugs will cause false-positives for any of the tests they are running.

At the very least, if you are explaining to HR "I failed the meth test because I take Metfromin", you are much better off if HR looks at the drug test report and it says right in the report "patient claims to be taking Metformin, which would generate a false positive for meth". Otherwise HR is barely aware that can cause that, and is more likely to just assume you're on meth and say "Next!"

It also helps the lab. There are several ways to screen for a drug. If their usual test confuses Metfromin and meth, and they have an alternate test which distinguishes them, you have given them a heads-up to use it. In some cases that is simply impossible; an example is medically necessary steroids vs. the anabolic steroids that are prohibited in high competitive sports. (Maybe you're interviewing at a sports company with a high sports culture).

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    Privacy (legal) comment: HR should never ever be allowed to read the details of a failed drug test. They should only know it is either positive (failed), negative (success) or inconclusive (false positive). That highly depends on labour laws of the country the OP is working in. – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ May 7 '19 at 8:16
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    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ inclusive means "unsure", which is something quite different from a false positive. – Jasper May 7 '19 at 12:21
  • @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ that completely screws anyone who lawfully takes a pharmaceutical that's incompatible with the test. If that person has a lawyer, lookout. If the testing company says I am positive for meth, then that is plain defamation in a very actionable package. On the other hand many false-flag drugs are OTC, so that means every meth head can show a receipt for Sudafed and get an "inconclusive" on their test result. It would defeat the purpose of testing. – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 7 '19 at 13:42

Someone (likely HR) will contact you to let you know you've failed the test and ask for an explanation. This is when you would bring in your prescription bottle and explain why it shouldn't be an issue. They may ask for a doctor's note to confirm, but that's not very likely.

The person administering the test doesn't particularly care what medications you take. They just need to make sure you take the test according to the process and provide results to your employer (their client).

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    Although sometimes they ask while doing the paperwork for the test. – Jon Custer May 6 '19 at 16:25
  • I guess it's possible, though it hasn't happened to me or anyone I've heard from. Probably depends on the company/relationship between the testing company and the client company. – Havegooda May 6 '19 at 16:28
  • I think it's better to be proactive and contact someone when you are notified you need to take the drug test. If you wait until after you failed to tell anyone, it will look much more suspicious. – David K May 6 '19 at 17:54
  • Even if they ask on the paperwork for the test, someone is going to have to prove the prescription is valid, otherwise you could just list a legit drug that masks an illegal drug you take. – JPhi1618 May 6 '19 at 20:25
  • The person conducting the test may very well care. After all, if they give out a lot of false positives, they may not be likely to keep their contract. In addition, it's quite unlikely that your employer will be able to make a fair assessment on how your legal drugs will cause false positives. That information is better given to the person conducting the test, who may be able to conduct an alternative test. – Gregory Currie May 7 '19 at 3:28

The person administering the test probably doesn't care nor do they likely have any power or authority to do anything. Mention it to them, but make sure to mention it to the hiring manager, HR person, etc. at the company that this test is for.

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    seems odd to not tell the professional drug tester what medications you take, but to instead tell non-medical professionals about your medications, which is very private information. – Azor Ahai -him- May 6 '19 at 20:39
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    Seems completely upside down. You should be able to trust a health professional (if we ignore the so-called "health professionals" they use in the UK to examine you and deny disability payments) to keep your medication record private. But if HR knows it, the company knows it. And of course HR has no way to judge whether your medication has any influence on a drug test. – gnasher729 May 6 '19 at 21:01
  • The person administering the test works for a third party that is contracted to administer the tests. They do not work for the company for which the test is being performed. As a result, they have no authority to interpret the results, intercede on your behalf, or influence how the company for which the test is being performed interprets the results nor what they do as a result. So... tell the test administrator... but know that it has little to no bearing on the outcome. – joeqwerty May 6 '19 at 21:35
  • @joeqwerty I don't that that's quite accurate, at least not always.The company conducting the drug test will be able to use that information to tweak the parameters of the testing. For instance, if you are taking prescription medicine, and you test positive they can see if it's within expected parameters for your prescription. In addition, they can opt to do a different test. While it's correct they don't have any authority to make decisions, they do have the capacity to change the result/process of the test based upon information given. – Gregory Currie May 7 '19 at 3:44

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