Can I appeal a false positive drug test? (2023)

How do you dispute a false positive drug test?

Failed a drug test required for your job? Do you think you were the victim of a false positive test? If the answer is yes, there are steps you can take to dispute your drug screening results, from asking why you may have gotten a false positive to asking for a repeat opportunity with your employer.

In this post we explainDrug testing in the workplace, the likelihood of false positives, what causes a false positive drug test, and steps you can take to correct the situation.

What is a false positive drug test?

A false positive drug test is a drug test that indicates a person is positive for drugs in their system, even if that person has recently (or in some cases never) used drugs. some employersuse drug testas a step before cessation and continuously after cessation for maintenancedrug-free workplace policy.

Due to a variety of factors, these tests are not always accurate. Certain drugs, substances, and even foods can "confuse" gas chromatographic mass spectrometry drug tests, leading to positive drug detection results even when the test subject has not participated in illicit drug use. A drug test can mistake certain substances or molecules in your bloodstream for some of the illegal drugs that tests are designed to detect, such as marijuana, amphetamines, opioids, barbiturates, cocaine, PCP, and benzodiazepines.

Medications that may show false positive drug tests

The good news is that it is often possible to predict when a drug test will give false positive results. For example, if you are taking any of the medications listed below, you should know before your drug screening that these substances can cause false positive drug tests.

1. Analgesics/NSAIDs

Certain pain relievers or pain relievers and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can cause false positive test results. For example, common pain relievers - including Advil and Aleve - can cause an individual to test positive for THC, PCP or barbiturates, while arthritis medications like Daypro can cause false positives for benzodiazepines.

(Video) 5 ways you could falsely test positive for drugs

2. Antibiotics

Some antibiotics can cause false positive results for opiates. Examples include Cipro and Levaquin, which are commonly prescribed to treat a variety of infections, from sinus infections to urinary tract infections.

3. Antidepressants

Prozac, Effexor, and other common antidepressants can cause a false positive result for illegal substances, including LSD and amphetamines.

4. Antihistamines and sleeping pills

Antihistamines are medications that treat allergies or hay fever. These drugs, like Benadryl, sometimes cause false positives for methadone or PCP. Some sleep aids have the same impact on a drug screen, including diphenhydramine – the generic term for Benadryl.

5. Central nervous system (CNS) stimulants.

Medications used to treat ADD and ADHD (such as Ritalin and Adderall) can produce positive drug screening results for opiates and PCP.

6. Cough medicine

Cough syrup is a common cold medicine, but it can also cause false positives on drug tests. The active ingredient in many over-the-counter cough suppressants is dextromethorphan, which may be identified as an opiate, or PCP, in the drug testing process.

7. Decongestants

Another cold medicine is Sudafed. Its active ingredient, pseudoephedrine, is also used in the manufacture of methamphetamine – in fact, Sudafed is no longer an over-the-counter drug. Customers can still purchase pseudoephedrine-containing products without a prescription, but they must go to the pharmacy counter, present a photo ID, and sign a log book to do so. These precautions are designed to curb methamphetamine production, but they do not prevent pseudoephedrine from triggering false positives for methamphetamine on a drug test.

8. Proton pump inhibitors

Drugs like Nexium, used to treat heartburn, stomach ulcers and other similar digestive disorders, can lead to false positive drug tests for THC or marijuana.

(Video) Prescription Medications That Cause False Positive Home Drug Tests

Substances that can show false positive drug tests

Drugs aren't the only substances that can cause a false positive result on a drug test. There are a number of other substances—some of which may be in your medicine cabinet, pantry, or refrigerator right now—that can cause problems with a drug test. These include:

1. Vitamin B Supplements

Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin is beneficial for healthy body growth, production of red blood cells, release of energy from proteins and much more. It can also cause you to fail a drug test because some riboflavin or B2 supplements are derived from hemp seed oil. Hemp seeds are part of the marijuana plant, which means that some B2 vitamins can cause a false positive result for marijuana use.

2. CBD (Canabidiol)

CBD is also derived from marijuana. Known to help people with ailments ranging from pain to sleep issues and chronic anxiety, CBD has grown in popularity in recent years. While CBD is not psychoactive and cannot get you "high", it can still introduce trace amounts of THC into your bloodstream or urine, which can lead to a failed drug test.

3. Mohn

One of the most well-known causes of false positive drug test results is the poppy seed. Poppy seeds, which are common in muffins, bagels and other foods, come from the opium plant, which means eating them before a drug test could result in a positive test for opioids.

4. Mouthwash or hand sanitizer

These products contain alcohol. If you use them heavily or regularly, they can leave traces of alcohol in your bloodstream. In most cases, don't worry: standard drug tests don't test for alcohol. However, if a subject needs to take a breathalyzer test and they don't have traces of alcohol in their system, these products could cause problems.

5. Tonic water

Tonic water, a common ingredient in cocktails, can lead to a false positive drug test. The tonic contains a substance called quinine which gives it its bitter taste. Quinine was originally developed as a drug to treat malaria. Although it is only found in small amounts in tonic, consuming large amounts of tonic still has the potential to trigger a false positive result on an opiate drug test.

How do I dispute a false positive drug test?

If you think you're at risk for a false positive drug test, or you think you've already failed a drug test due to a false positive result, here are some steps you can take to troubleshoot the issue.

(Video) How to Pass a Drug Test (After Doing Lots of Drugs) | Vanity Code | Vanity Fair

Step 1: Face the problem

If you regularly take certain medications or consume supplements of vitamin B2, CBD, poppy seeds or tonic water, consider giving advance notice to the person testing you for drugs. If you openly address the issue — and provide evidence for what you claim, such as a doctor's prescription for a drug — you're protected against a possible false alarm.

Step 2: Ask your doctor or pharmacist

If you've ever failed a drug test and are trying to figure out why it might have triggered a false positive, the most important step is self-reflection. Think about what you've been consuming recently – including food, drink and medication – that could be the culprit.

If you took a medication in the days leading up to the drug test, ask your doctor or pharmacist if that medication might have caused your drug test to fail. If they say yes, they can vouch for you with a potential employer.

Step 3: Ask to repeat the drug test

If you can provide strong evidence why your positive drug test was a false positive, you should order a retest. For example, if you're applying for a job and you're a strong candidate - say, if the employer already has a job offer that is partially dependent on your drug tests - that employer will likely give you a second chance if you explain the situation. .

common questions

Can you sue a false positive drug test?

In recent years, it has become more common for individuals to sue drug testing labs for false positive results. For example, there have been cases where plaintiffs lost jobs due to false alarms and sued labs for inaccurate results.

What can cause a false positive result in a urine drug screen?

Certain medications, CBD, poppy seeds, and even tonic water are some of the substances that can trigger false positives on a drug test. These products and substances have ingredients or origins in common with drugs that laboratories must verify. For example, CBD oil is derived from the cannabis plant, which means its use could result in a false positive for marijuana.

Can you fight a failed drug test?

Yes. Statistics show that false positive results occur five to ten percent of the time. There are enough substances that can cause a false positive result that it is always worth exploring the possibility of disputing a failed drug test.

(Video) How Accurate Are Drug Tests?

What happens if my drug test is positive?

The answer to this question depends on your situation. If you are negotiating a new job with a prospective employer and you fail a drug test, the employer may terminate your job offer. If you are already employed and you fail a drug test, your employer may fire you. You may also face apartment drug testing, where failing a test could result in your rent application being rejected.

Can I appeal a false positive drug test? (1)

aboveMichael KlazemaThe author

Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at and brings over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management and technology innovation. He is the lead writer and editor for, based in Dallas and focused on workforce development and employment screening.

(Video) Team 10: Local woman wrongly imprisoned after failed drug test


Can you dispute a false positive drug test? ›

Many employers understand these panel tests may result in false positives. Simply ask if you can take another test. Many will have no problems accommodating your request. It helps to present evidence as to why you tested positive the first time.

How rare is a false positive drug test? ›

A worry for anyone undergoing an illicit drug screen - whether it be a urine, hair, saliva or blood test - is the possibility of a false positive drug test. In fact, some data suggests 5 to 10 percent of all drug tests may result in false positives and 10 to 15 percent may yield false negatives.

What is the most common false positive drug test? ›

According to one study, false positive drug tests are most commonly reported for amphetamine and methamphetamine. That's because common over-the-counter medications can result in false positives for these substances.

Why am I getting a false positive drug test? ›

False positive results on urine drug tests can happen. A false positive is when a drug test shows the presence of a medication or substance that you didn't actually take. Multiple medications can cause false positive results. Some examples include NSAIDs, dextromethorphan, and some antidepressants.

What happens if my drug test comes back positive? ›

If the test result is proven to be legitimate (especially after multiple retests), you will most likely lose your job. If drug testing was part of a screening application, the company will probably revoke your job offer. However, in some industries or states, you might be given a second chance.

How much water does it take to dilute a drug test? ›

Drinking two or three 12-ounce glasses of water at the same time can produce 10-fold diluted urine within only half an hour and the dilution effect may last for hours. In most cases, this will successfully lower the concentration of some drugs (mainly marijuana) in the urine enough to produce a negative test result.

What drugs can cause a false positive on a urine test? ›

Clinically, a false positive urine drug screen can be due to numerous xenobiotics: dextromethorphan, diphenhydramine, doxylamine, ibuprofen, imipramine, ketamine, meperidine, venlafaxine, buproprion, methylenedioxpyrolvalerone (MDPV), and tramadol.

What can make you falsely fail a drug test? ›

What Can Cause a False Positive Drug Test
  • Secondhand Marijuana Smoke. 1/11. If you hang out often with someone who puffs on pot, your urine could have traces of THC. ...
  • Weight Loss Pills. 2/11. ...
  • Poppy Seeds. 3/11. ...
  • Mouthwash. 4/11. ...
  • Antidepressants. 5/11. ...
  • Antibiotics. 6/11. ...
  • CBD Oil. 7/11. ...
  • Antihistamines. 8/11.
Sep 5, 2021

How long will drugs show in a urine test? ›

Opioids like heroin and oxycodone are detectable for between 1 and 3 days after last use. Stimulants including cocaine, meth, and ADHD medications are detectable for about 2 or 3 days. Benzodiazepines and MDMA generally flag a urine test for up to 4 days after last dose.

Can toothpaste cause a false positive drug test? ›

Results showed that intermittent presumptive positive results for amphetamine, methadone, opiates and cocaine could be detected following the consumption of coffee, Coke, fruit juice, oranges, spicy food and toothpaste using the Orasure system if specimens were not collected in accordance with the manufacturer's ...

Can ibuprofen cause false positive on drug test? ›

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (including ibuprofen and naproxen) (2,3) as well as proton pump inhibitors (specifically pantoprazole) (3) have been reported to cause false positives on urine drug screens.

Can a diluted drug test still be positive? ›

There are two types of dilute specimens: positive and negative. With a positive diluted drug test, the laboratory picks up the presence of an illegal substance despite its dilution. Whether intentional or accidental, the dilution didn't hide the drug levels.

Can drinking too much water affect urine test? ›

The only thing that affects a dilute sample is the amount of fluid taken in within a short period of time prior to providing the urine sample. If you are seeing results that show you are getting close to a dilute sample, try to stop drinking any fluids 2-4 hours prior to providing the sample.

Will too much water fail a drug test? ›

Drinking a lot of water before a test might result in a positive dilute but will not produce a negative result. It might make it more challenging to test for substances like THC, but it also warns labs and employers that something is wrong.

Can you falsify a urine drug test? ›

In short, that falsifying the results of a drug test under this law becomes illegal when you use a device, such as a fake urine dispenser, or a substance, such as a “detox” drink, in an effort to cheat a drug test.

How do you mess up drug test results? ›

Usually people try to cheat drug testing by three different ways: substituting their urine with synthetic urine or drug-free urine purchased from a clandestine source; drinking a commercially available product to flush out drugs; or adding an adulterant in vitro to the urine specimen after collection.

What should you avoid before a drug test? ›

- Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, tobacco and strenuous exercise for 24 hours prior to collection and up to collection time. - Do not consume avocados, bananas, eggplant, pineapples, plums, tomatoes or walnuts for 48 hours before the test.

Can peroxide make you fail drug test? ›

Powerful oxidants such as nitrite, hypochlorite, peroxides, permanganate and iodate are commonly used chemicals for urine adulteration purposes. Many of these chemicals have been successfully used to produce false negative urine test results by altering the physicochemical properties of the samples.

What percentage of drug tests are positive? ›

In 2021, positivity in the general U.S. workforce based on oral fluid was 7.3% in 2021, a decline of 46.3% compared to 2020 (13.6%) and 29.8% compared to 2017 (10.4%).

How accurate is a positive at home drug test? ›

If two lines appear, including two faint lines, the test is negative. If only the control line appears, the test is positive. Areta's 14 Panel Drug Test Cup Kit is more than 99% accurate.

Is urine test accurate for drug test? ›

Are test results accurate? Although no drug test is 100% accurate, urine drug testing is the most common method of testing for drug use and misuse. Special precautions may be taken during sample collection, transportation, and testing to improve test accuracy.

What should a positive drug test look like? ›

A drug test is positive if there is no line on the test, as opposed to a line indicating a positive pregnancy test. However, there always needs to be a control line (indicated below with the line connecting the two Cs).

How much urine is needed for a positive drug test? ›

A: Urine drug testing requires a minimum of 30 mL of urine (45 mL for a U.S. Department of Transportation collection) collected in the privacy of a restroom. The collector pours the specimen into a bottle that is sealed with tamper-evident tape.

How sensitive are lab drug tests? ›

These screening tests tend to be fairly specific and highly sensitive for the drugs being analyzed. If a non-negative sample is detected, labs utilize technologies like gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) to confirm the presence or absence of specific drugs, thereby preventing false positives.

Can a drug test tell if it's synthetic urine? ›

All SU products screened negative in the drug immunoassay and additionally passed the specimen validity testing (SVT) as authentic urine.

What not to do before a drug test? ›

- Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, tobacco and strenuous exercise for 24 hours prior to collection and up to collection time. - Do not consume avocados, bananas, eggplant, pineapples, plums, tomatoes or walnuts for 48 hours before the test.


1. Gov. Scott to appeal drug testing injunction
(WPTV News - FL Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast)
2. You are a Military Service Member that had a Positive Drug Test. What Should You Do?
(Shewmaker and Lewis)
3. False Positive: When forensic science fails [Full version]
4. Drug Testing Appeal
5. Effects of Positive Drug Screen on your License - Advice for Licensed Health Care Providers
(Chapman Law Group: Health Care Attorneys)
6. Wrongful Termination After An Employee Drug Test


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