What happens if you fail a drug test? 

What happens if you fail a drug test? 

If you fail a preliminary drug test but don’t take any controlled substance, there are a number of things that usually happen. These are:

  • Checking for your prescription medications for causing a false positive
  • Checking the number of prescription refills you’ve had
  • Going for more accurate drug testing procedures 

However, these steps are certainly helpful for someone who got a false positive test result and who does not actually use any controlled drug with the intention of getting high. 

Illegal use of drugs not just puts you in a bad position by law, but it also can harm your body in more ways than you can imagine. For someone who’s struggling with a false positive, here are a few things that can happen: 

Checking for your prescription medications for causing a false positive

If you fail a drug test, your prescription is checked. This is because there are a lot of prescription medications that can cause a positive for controlled substances which may make you fail a test. 

Antidepressants, antipsychotics, antibiotics, antiemetics, and even OTC medications like Ibuprofen and anti-allergies like Claritin-D can cause a false positive. This is why your prescription is evaluated to see if you’re currently using any medication that can cause a false positive (1,2). 

Checking the number of prescription refills you’ve had

If you’re on prescription medications that can cause addiction or if they are drugs of abuse – like Adderall for the management and treatment of ADHD – your doctor will likely pay attention to your number of prescription refills. 

These things are usually monitored properly and such medications are not dispensed that easily. However, some people may misuse these medications and some are often red-flagged by their doctors. 

If the use of controlled meds is carefully managed and you only take as much as your health condition demands, don’t worry! You will not be in trouble. 

Going for more accurate drug testing procedures

In case of having a false positive on a preliminary urine drug screening, the next step is to go for more sensitive and accurate testing procedures, like Gas Chromatography – Mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) (3). 

This technique identifies the exact chemical present in your body. However, this technique is quite expensive and not everyone can afford them. Cheaper drug testing procedures are used despite their inaccurate results because of better affordability. 

Final words

While these steps are usually next when a person fails a drug test, however, It’s important to note that the specific steps taken will depend on the policies of the organization conducting the drug test and the circumstances of the test. 

It’s also important to be honest about any medications you are taking, as this can help to avoid false positive results and ensure that you receive accurate test results.

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Brahm NC, Yeager LL, Fox MD, Farmer KC, Palmer TA. Commonly prescribed medications and potential false-positive urine drug screens. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2010 Aug 15;67(16):1344-50. doi: 10.2146/ajhp090477. PMID: 20689123. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20689123/


Alyson Schwebach, Jennifer Ball. Urine Drug Screening: Minimizing False Positives and False Negatives to Optimize Patient Care. US Pharm. 2013;38(12):1-6. Available from: https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/urine-drug-screening-minimizing-false-positives-and-false-negatives-to-optimize-patient-care


Ramoo B, Funke M, Frazee C, Garg U. Comprehensive Urine Drug Screen by Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS). Methods Mol Biol. 2016;1383:125-31. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-3252-8_15. PMID: 26660182. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26660182/