How to Dispute a False Positive Drug Test?

A patient having a discussion with the doctor about drug test

Some drugs are more likely to cause false positives than others. Knowing why this happens is one way of disputing a false positive test.

After weeks of research, I’ve discovered what impacts a drug test’s results and how you can beat a false positive. 

Here’s what I discovered.

Quick Summary

  • If you’re doubtful about your initial test results, get a more advanced testing method done to be sure.
  • Either medicinal or non-medicinal substances cause a false positive drug.
  • After you fail a drug test, it is essential to retrace your steps and consider what you have eaten or drank that could have caused a false positive.

What Is a False Positive Drug Test?

A doctor performing a laboratory drug testA false-positive result is when a test incorrectly indicates that a person has been using drugs. 

Employers often have policies requiring a drug-free workplace. To uphold these policies, some employers use workplace drug testing as a pre-employment step, and others conduct employee drug testing on an ongoing basis.

A false-positive drug test might occur for a few reasons, such as if you’ve recently taken prescription drugs or consumed specific substances or foods.

What Are Substances That May Cause a False Positive on a Drug Test?

Substances that may cause a false positive on a drug test include certain antihistamines, nasal inhalers, or cold medicine. This also occurs with tricyclic medication for depression, quetiapine, and bupropion.

Before taking a drug test, knowing which substances can cause false positive drug tests is crucial; my extensive research revealed that both medicinal and non-medicinal substances could result in a false positive drug test. Let me explain each in detail.

8 Medications/Illicit Drugs That Cause a False Positive

A top view image of different medications or drugs

The medications listed below have all been linked to causing inaccurate results on drug screens [1].

1. Analgesics/ NSAIDs

Some painkillers and arthritis drugs can show false positives on tests for other substances. For example, common NSAIDs like Advil or Aleve can lead to a THC, PCP, or barbiturate positive test result, while Daypro can cause a false benzodiazepine positive.

2. Antibiotics

Certain antibiotics, such as Cipro and Levaquin, can register a false positive for opiates during drug tests. These drugs are prescribed to treat sinusitis and urinary tract infections.

3. Central Nervous System (CNS) Stimulants

Medications used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such as Ritalin and Adderall, can cause false-positive results.

4. Cough Suppressants

Many people take cough syrup to relieve cold symptoms, but few know that it may lead to a false positive drug test. The main ingredient in over-the-counter suppressants, dextromethorphan, can appear as an opiate or PCP.

5. Decongestants

Sudafed is another common cold medication. Its active ingredient, pseudoephedrine, is also used in the production of methamphetamine. However, Sudafed is no longer available without a prescription.

6. Proton Pump Inhibitors

Medications like Nexium, designed to treat acid reflux disease and peptic ulcers, can produce false positives on THC or marijuana drug tests.

7. Secondhand Marijuana Smoke

If you are around people who smoke pot, your body could have THC. This is the chemical in cannabis that gets people high. But it is not likely that there would be enough THC to show up on screens used by state and federal governments or many private employers. 

8. CBD (cannabidiol)

Derived from marijuana, CBD has surged in popularity for its ability to alleviate many conditions, from pain and sleep problems to chronic anxiety.

Non-medicinal Substances That Cause A False Positive

An image of different vitamin supplements pouring out of a bottle

It’s not only drugs that can create a false positive on a drug test. Many other substances—you might even have some in your home right now—could cause issues.

These include:

1. Vitamin B Supplements

Although Vitamin B2 has many benefits, it can also cause you to fail a drug test. This is because some riboflavin or B2 supplements are derived from hemp seed oil from the marijuana plant. Therefore, taking these vitamins could produce a false positive for marijuana use.

2. Poppy Seeds

A little-known fact is that poppy seeds can cause false positives on drug tests. Poppy seeds come from the opium plant and are commonly found in baked goods like muffins and bagels.

If someone consumed foods with poppy seeds before a drug test, they would likely test positive for an illicit drug.

3. Tonic Water

Tonic water, often used in mixed drinks, can cause a false positive when drug tested. The tonic contains quinine, which gives it its bitter taste.

Quinine was developed as an antimalarial medication. While the amount of quinine in tonic is low, consuming large quantities of tonic can produce a false positive test result for illegal drugs.

How To Dispute A False Positive Drug Test?

A patient arguing with a doctor nicely

To dispute a false positive drug test, you must first disclose any substances you consume that may lead to false positives and ask for a retest. 

If you fail the test and are confident that no illicit substances have been consumed, then follow these steps to dispute the results.

Step 1: Notify Your Administrator

If you use medication or supplements containing CBD, poppy seeds, vitamin B2, or tonic water regularly, notify the person administering the drug test in advance. 

Step 2: Talk To Your Doctor Or Pharmacist

After failing a drug test, the most crucial step is to think about what you consumed that could have caused a false positive. This includes food, drink, and medication.

Step 3: Ask For A Retest

If you suspect your first false positive test results were incorrect, I suggest you request a more advanced testing method for confirmation. The administrator should conduct two separate drug testing procedures on the substances that could have caused a false positive. 

Testing methods such as the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) test and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) test are standard secondary tests used by most labs [2].

“Even if you fail in your efforts to get a retest, all is not lost. If you’re a union member, consult a union leader.”
Jennifer Mueller, Doctor of Law, Indiana University

Related Articles:


What If The Confirmatory Test Comes Back Positive?

If the confirmatory test comes back positive, you should consult an attorney. If you’re unsure whether your positive substance test is a false positive, consider getting a consultation at a reputable treatment center.

Can An Employer Take Back a Job Offer Due to a False Positive?

Yes, an employer can take back a job offer due to a false positive. Although it is not always illegal, employers should consult an attorney before revoking a job offer.

Can Synthetic Urine Help Me Pass a Drug Test?

Yes, synthetic urine can help you pass a drug test. This product contains everything you need to test human urine for things like ammonia, urea, uric acid, and more. Plus, it ensures that the pH balance and specific gravity are similar to real urine.

Is Failing a Drug Test Because of Poppy Seeds Possible?

Yes, failing a drug test because of poppy seeds is possible. Poppy seeds can contain trace amounts of opiates like morphine and codeine, which are remnants from the opium poppy plant they come from. These substances can sometimes be detected in urine drug tests, leading to a false positive result for opiate use.

What Is the Hardest Drug Test to Pass?

The hardest drug test to pass is a hair test. When the substance is ingested, it goes to the hair follicle. Then, they settle to the actual strands afterward, they usually stay there pretty much forever.

Do You Want To Avoid False Positives?

If you want to avoid worrying about false positives, I suggest using synthetic urine. Out of the dozen or so different synthetic urine solutions I tested to pass a drug test, Quick Fix Synthetic Urine was by far the best.

Quick Fix Synthetic Urine is a urination simulator that consists of two main components, urea, and uric acid. Other properties include balanced pH levels, creatinine, and specific gravity. In other words, you don’t have to stress about testing positive because it acts like real human urine.




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