If you're an employer who has a drug testing policy — or an employee who gets screened for drugs at work — then you've probably wondered, "What happens if my prescription medication leads to a positive drug test?” This is why, if you're taking prescription medication, you'll want to get your drug test results verified by a medical review officer (MRO).
Let's talk about it more.
Wait, Prescription Drugs Can Show Up on a Drug Test?
They sure can! While this won't always happen, some drugs can trigger a false-positive result. In other words, the drug test will indicate that illegal drugs were found in the individual's system, even though it's a valid prescription.
What drugs can do this, you're wondering? Here are some examples:
- NSAIDS and proton pump inhibitors can show up as THC.
- Trazodone and bupropion can show up as amphetamine.
- Sertraline can get flagged as LSD.
There are many others. For instance, certain prescription medications can also appear as methamphetamine, PCP, opioids, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates.
What Happens if the Employee Screens Positive?
Now, let's say the drug test results come back and — surprise! — they're positive... even though no illicit drugs were consumed.
This is where a medical review officer plays a very important role.
You might be able to guess by the name what a medical review officer does. A medical review officer (or MRO) is a licensed physician whose job is to review the lab results from a drug test to (a) ensure they're accurate and (b) address any potential mix-ups.
So, if the employee tested positive for LSD, as an example, but it was just because of their prescription drugs, the MRO helps sort it out so that the drug test results are 100% accurate.
Note that this doesn't mean that drug testing isn't accurate. Drug tests are indeed a proven way to help keep illegal substances and drug users out of the workplace.
If you're required to undergo random drug testing and don't have your prescription on you, that's okay! The MRO services will address any issues with you later on.
What About Testing Positive for Medical Marijuana?
If medical marijuana is legal in your state and the drug test returns positive for THC, then once again, this is a matter for the medical review officer to handle. If the individual consumes THC for a medical problem and has a valid prescription, then this will be accounted for in the drug testing results.
However, note that all of this still depends on the employer's drug-free workplace policy which might ban any and all drug use, even drugs prescribed or taken for medical conditions. With that being said, something also worth noting is that marijuana is still illegal under the federal government, even if it's legal in your state.
Why Aren't Prescription Medications Automatically Allowed?
Prescription drugs might be needed to help someone deal with the symptoms of a medical condition. However, at the same time, those medications can also leave them impaired.
For example, medical marijuana might help take the edge off of a terrible migraine or soothe the horrendous symptoms of Crohn's. However, the THC in marijuana can also affect the body in other ways. For instance, it can slow the individual's reaction times, make them tired, and hamper their decision-making abilities.
These impairments can make it harder for the employee to perform their job duties as expected.
This isn't to say that employees should refrain from taking the medications that their healthcare providers prescribe. These might be very important for your health. However, it does help to explain just how important a company's drug-free workplace policy is.
What is a Drug-Free Workplace Policy?
A drug-free workplace policy includes all of the details of how a company plans to keep its workplace free of illicit drug and/or alcohol substances. For instance, the company might have required training for the staff. They might utilize pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, and return-to-duty drug testing.
The drug testing policy should also answer important questions like:
- What drugs does the company screen for?
- What happens if an employee tests positive for banned drugs?
- What if they refuse the drug test?
Why Do These Policies Matter?
A company's drug testing policy exists to protect everyone: the employer, the employees, the business entity itself, and everyone the company does business with — vendors, the general public, and so on.
There is a marked connection between drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace and the presence of on-the-job accidents, injury, and crime.
Furthermore, drug abuse at work hurts productivity and efficiency. It increases the employee turnover rate and it's bad for morale.
A clear, thorough, and properly communicated policy is vital for a company's success and the well-being of everyone who works for it.
How to Keep Your Workplace Substance-Free
Testing for drugs and alcohol is just one of a million responsibilities that business owners have. So, let us help! US Drug Test Centers works with companies to:
- Create their drug-free workplace policy.
- Train their designated employer representatives (DERs) — the individuals responsible for managing the drug testing program for all employees.
- Manage pre-employment and random drug testing.
- Verify all testing results with a medical review officer.
We use only SAMHSA-certified laboratories and have more than 20,000 testing locations around the nation. You can order online in just a few clicks, and results are delivered via email.
We work with both non-DOT and DOT companies. So, if your business operates under the Department of Transportation, ask us how we can help!