Drug Tests

Drug testing is more and more common in both the private sector, and it is definitely the norm in government jobs, courtesy of Ronald Reagan. In 1986, Reagan made it mandatory for all federal employees to “Just say no.” The Drug Free Workplace Act followed in 1988. This made drug tests a requirement for any company that contracted more than $25,000 worth of business with the federal government. Insurance companies got into the act by providing discounts to companies that have a drug-testing policy. The main drug test is called a “five screen” because it tests for these five drugs:

  • Cannabinoids (includes marijuana and hashish)

  • Cocaine (test detects the metabolite benzoylecognine)

  • Opiates (such as heroin, opium, codeine, and morphine)

  • Amphetamines (includes amphetamines, methamphet-amines, commonly known as speed)

  • Phencyclidine (commonly known as PCP or angel dust)

  • Many drug-testing companies are now offering a “ten screen” that includes these five additional drugs:

  • Barbiturates (including phenobarbital, secobarbitol, pentobarbital, butalbital, amobarbital)

  • Methaqualone (contained in Quaaludes)

  • Benzodiazepines (contained in the tranquilizers Diazepam, Valium, Librium, Ativan, Xanax, Clonopin, Serax, Halcion, Rohypnol)

  • Methadone

  • Propoxyphene (found in Darvon compounds)

  • Some legal drugs such as codeine (a prescribed painkiller) will show up in a standard drug test. Other opiate-based painkillers may also show up in your results. You should be candid in advance about any medication you are taking so neither you nor your prospective employer are surprised by a possible positive result.

    Included in this list are prescribed painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs. If you are being treated for severe pain or a panic disorder, you will test positive, so you will have to be up front about your medical history.


    Be careful what you have for breakfast in the days before your scheduled drug test. A poppy-seed bagel can cause a false positive for heroin! Opium and heroin are derived from the poppy flower. Have bacon and eggs instead. It might not be healthy, but at least it won't affect your drug test.

    Even if you are clean and sober you can still fail a drug test, and get what is called a false-positive result. The following over-the-counter drugs can cause this result:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)

  • Midol

  • Nuprin

  • Sudafed

  • Vicks Nasal Spray

  • Neosynephren

  • Ephedra and ephedrine-based products (often used in diet products)

  • Detromethorphan

  • Vicks 44

  • If you do receive a false positive, you may be asked to take a second test. Some employers do not offer a second test because they are expensive. If you have the money, you can offer to pay for it yourself. Be sure to ask if you can use a different testing company. If the employer refuses to give you another test, even if you have disclosed your prescription and have not used illegal drugs, legal recourse may be your only option.

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