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How to Dispute a False Positive Drug Test

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Whether you’re applying for a position in healthcare, finance, retail, or another industry, you’re most likely going to be asked to take a drug screen before you’re offered employment.

Hiring those who can pass a drug test and maintain a drug-free workplace is the best way to keep staff and customers safe.

If you’ve taken a drug test for a new job or a random test for your currency employer and found yourself with a false positive result, don’t panic.

While it can be shocking and nerve-wracking to find out your test came back with a false positive, you can dispute it.

Disputing your false positive drug test isn’t impossible, but it does require some effort.

If you find yourself in this position, take a look at what you need to do when it comes to how to dispute a false positive drug test.


What Is a False Positive Drug Test?

A false positive result on a drug test is when your drug test comes back positive for some drug, but that’s not correct.

There are times when someone takes a drug test, hasn’t used any drugs, and shows that they have.

There are several reasons why you may receive a false positive.

Are False Positives Common in Drug Tests?

False positives aren’t very common in drug tests.

While they’re not common, they can still happen.

Some studies have shown that anywhere between 5-10% of drug tests will come back with a false positive result.

Knowing what causes false positives and how they do so can help you avoid getting one.

False negative drug test results are more common than a false positive test.

False negatives are only more common by about 5%.

Can You Dispute a False Positive Drug Test?

Yes, you can.

If you’ve received a call from your employer or future employer about your drug screening results and they’re positive, it can be stressful when you know you haven’t taken any substances.

When you know you haven’t used any drugs, disputing it with your employer is the right thing to do.

Different companies may have different methods for fighting the results, but it’s possible.

What do Drug Tests Test For?

There are several different kinds of drug tests on the market.

While there’s a test for every drug you could want to test for, not all tests include every single substance.

5 Panel Drug Tests

A 5-panel drug test is one of the most commonly used for employment screenings.

These tests test for the five most commonly abused illicit drugs.

This includes opiates, THC (the hallucinogen in marijuana), PCP, cocaine, and amphetamine.

10 Panel Drug Tests

A 10-panel drug test is more in-depth than a 5-panel.

These tests include all five drugs from the 5-panel and then five additional ones.

These include propoxyphene, Quaaludes, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and methadone.

What Commonly Used Substances Cause False Positive Drug Tests?

It may seem strange to receive a false-positive test result, but several commonly used substances can cause them.

Substances from food to medication can show as different illegal substances, even when you’ve never taken the legitimate drug before.


It may seem strange to think that some of the food we eat can cause you to fail a drug test, but it’s true. Granted, most of these need to be in high volumes, but it’s still possible.


Foods that are high in yeast can cause your body to produce ethanol.

If you’re taking a drug test that screens for alcohol, you may get a false positive if you’ve consumed foods high in yeast.

Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are a popular ingredient in smoothies and in granola bars.

When you consume a lot of hemp seeds, it’s possible that you may fail your drug screen and appear to have been using marijuana.

Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are delicious and are found in many of our favorite foods.

If you love everything bagels or everything but the bagel seasoning, you may want to avoid eating it before your employment drug testing.

Poppy seeds can cause you to test positive for opiates when overeating.


This may not come as a surprise to you, but over-the-counter and prescription medication can cause you to fail your drug test.

While these are all legal substances, if you don’t disclose this to your employer, they may assume you abuse drugs due to failing your drug screening.


Sudafed is commonly used to treat nasal congestion, among other sinus issues.

While helpful in treating that, it can cause you to fail a drug test.

When Sudafed is made, trace amounts of amphetamines are used, making it possible that your test may show methamphetamine in your blood.


Ibuprofen isn’t a medication that most people think would appear as an illicit substance on a drug test, but it can.

The good news is that it usually only shows up on a drug screen as PCP, cannabis, or barbiturates in your urine if you take 800-1,200 milligrams per day.


Commonly used to treat ADHD, Adderall and its generic versions will more than likely show up on a drug screen.

These controlled substances show up as methamphetamine or another amphetamine.

As long as you have a prescription for it, it’s easy to explain to your employer.

Cold Medicine

Most of us don’t rush to the doctor when we have a cold since there’s plenty of over-the-counter cold medicine for us to use.

While these medications are great for kicking a cold, they may pose an issue for you on a drug screen.

Cold medicine uses brompheniramine which is similar to amphetamines.

This ingredient can cause it to look like you’ve been using amphetamines when drug tested.


One of the leading sources of a false positive drug test is sertraline.

Sertraline is a commonly used antidepressant.

This medication has a similar structure to amphetamines and benzodiazepines.

A similar structure can lead to a false positive result, especially since antidepressants are typically taken daily.

Other Common Causes for False Positive Drug Tests

Food and medication are the leading cause for false positive drug tests, but there’s another way you can get this result.

Sweat Patch

A sweat patch is a type of drug test.

It’s not the most common because a urine sample or mouth swab is quicker.

Sweat patches work by absorbing sweat from the body and detecting any drugs in the persons’ blood.

These aren’t as accurate as other drug tests and produce more false positives than urine tests and saliva swabs.


CBD oil is a popular and natural way to treat anxiety and pain.

The best part about using CBD oil is that it contains all the beneficial ingredients from marijuana without the THC.

Since it doesn’t have any THC, it’s supposedly safe for drug testing.

That being said, some oils have trace amounts of THC that generally wouldn’t show on a drug screen.

If you use it daily, that tiny amount can add up and cause a false positive test result.

What Should I do If I Get a False Positive Drug Test?

If your employer or future employer calls you to inform you that you’ve failed your drug test, it’s a stressful time, especially when you haven’t touched any illegal drugs.

Here’s what you should do if you get that unfortunate call.

Don’t Overreact

First things first, try not to overreact. It’s completely normal to be upset and confused, but that won’t help.

If you know you haven’t taken any illicit substances, you have nothing to worry about, and disputing the result should be a piece of cake.

Collect Evidence

It’s important to do some research on common substances that may cause a false positive.

If they told you which substance you tested positive for on your initial screening, you’d be able to narrow it down further.

If you can prove you have prescriptions for any medications that may have shown up, that’s going to be crucial.

As for food, it may be trickier, but receipts and the honest truth will go far.

Develop a Plan

Having a plan on how you’ll speak with your employer or future employer is essential too.

Going in with a calm demeanor and evidence that will help prove it was a false positive test result would help them agree to a confirmatory test.

How to Dispute a False Positive Drug Test

So, how exactly are you supposed to go about disputing a false positive drug test?


Often, an employer won’t ask you to re-test; it’s up to you.

If you believe that your urine drug screen was a false positive, expressing your interest in taking another test is the only way to get one.

Keep in mind that if you ask for a confirmatory test, they’ll test the same urine sample you originally provided.

In some cases, they may use a new sample, but it depends on the situation.

Disclose Substances That May Have Caused the Positive Result

Disclosing any substances you have ingested can help aid in getting a re-test.

The ideal way to do this is to inform your employer beforehand that they may show up and offer to show them your prescriptions.

As for foods you may have eaten or over-the-counter medicine, you’ll want to let them know afterwards since most of the time, people don’t think about these things before the drug test.

How to Explain a Failed Drug Test

When you receive the news that you failed your drug test, explaining it can be a little awkward.

If you know that your result is a false positive, you’ll want to explain that to your potential employer or whoever requested the test.

The best way to go about this is to set up a meeting or phone call with them when you can speak privately about the matter.

You’ll want to explain why you think you failed the drug test and then provide any and all proof that you have.

The biggest thing is to ask for a re-test or a brand new drug test based on the evidence you’ve presented.

Wrapping Up

False positive drug test results can make hiring a little challenging.

The best way to avoid any backlash from a false positive test result is to disclose any medications or food you’ve ingested that may lead to this before you even take the test.

If you’ve forgotten to disclose this information, you’ll still be able to dispute it.

Talking with your future employer or whoever ordered the test and providing evidence of why you believe it was a false positive may prompt them to re-test you.

Staying calm and professional when disputing your false positives is important to instill confidence in your employer.

If you can provide them with evidence and are honest, disputing your result shouldn’t be difficult.

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