Can Drug Tests Detect Prescription Meds?


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of people who consume and abuse prescription drugs has increased significantly in the last few decades. 

At the same time, you should know that at least sixty percent of injured workers at the workplaces had consumed narcotic painkillers beforehand.

You can understand that the chances of workplace accidents are increasing after you consume impairing or sedating medications. However, the regulations are problematic and complicated, significantly since they limit the employer’s rights to get information about medication use.

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Testing or inquiring an employee for the prescription medications can fall under the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act, leading to severe problems. Generally, medical exams have to be necessary for business and job-specific, which you need to remember.

Based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers cannot ask all employees for the prescription drug use if the testing is not necessary for business and if consuming the meds is not affecting the performance and productivity.

However, in specific circumstances, when handling safety-sensitive jobs, an employer will have the right to prove that testing for prescription pills is a business necessity and job-related. 

Simultaneously, employees who are consuming prescription medications have to report to regulatory authorities to ensure public safety, significantly since the meds can affect their ability to perform particular functions properly.

For instance, if someone is working at law enforcement, a supervisor can require armed officers to report if they consume prescription meds because it can affect their ability to perform particular functions such as discharging a firearm.

On the other hand, if someone is working administrative duties at a law enforcement agency, using medication will not directly threaten the public and co-workers. 

Therefore, a person can efficiently perform essential job functions even while on sedatives, which is something you should know.

Workplace Testing for Prescription and Illegal Drugs


Employers have to comply with the state and local regulations, but they can conduct illicit drug testing to determine whether applicants or current employees are abusing illegal drugs. 

According to the ADA, screenings for illicit drugs are not the same as medical examinations, which means that they are not causing discrimination against drug abusers. 

Keep in mind that if your employee starts using prescription pills without a legal prescription, the ADA considers it as illegal drug abuse, which means that you will have all rights to conduct legal disciplinary action against everyone who fails the test.

Employers should avoid choosing the applicant based on legal prescription use or lack of information about particular abuse effects. 

Even if you think that someone will not have the ability to properly conduct a job, you should think twice before rejecting them based on the testing.

That is why you should implement both procedures and policies that will help you with the process. You should include requirements for employees that are consuming prescription pills, which will protect you against legal liabilities, among other things.

As an employer, you can easily create qualification standards for high-risk employees that operate in safety-sensitive positions. This is especially important if a particular position poses a severe risk to accidents and substantial harm to others and individuals.

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In case the risk is not something you can lower down to the appropriate and acceptable level, you should test for prescription medications to establish the situation. However, you cannot assume anything beforehand.

The idea is that you need to create a thorough objective that will use suitable methods for reducing the chances of workplace accidents. Besides, when you review and analyze a list of medications from your employee, you should do it confidentially by a health professional.

When it comes to federal guidelines for testing, you should know that they are limited based on the scope of options you can get. 

At the same time, you can find other non-federal testing companies that will provide you a broader scope, which will allow you to determine the amounts of prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines, oxycodone, and many more.

Of course, you will need to consult an MRO physician, who will review the results and determine whether medications are legally prescribed or not. In case an MRO determines that the medications are potentially impairing or sedating, he/she will alert the company.

However, you cannot publically disclose the information you get, which will protect you against privacy invasion.

Medications That Can Cause False-Positive Testing Results

  • Dextromethorphan – Keep in mind that this is an active ingredient in various cough suppressants such as Delsym and Robitussin, among others. However, if you have consumed anything with it before testing, you may end up positive for PCP or opiates, which means that you should avoid them altogether.
  • Diphenhydramine – This is one of the most popular antihistamines found in allergy medications. In case you consumed, your screening may show positive results for PCP, methadone, and opiates.
  • Diltiazem – When it comes to this particular high-blood pressure medication, you should know that it could lead to a false positive for LSD. 
  • Pseudoephedrine – It is a common ingredient in nasal congestion and sinus issues. However, the consumption can lead to a false positive for meth or amphetamine.
  • Metformin – At the same time, this is a common drug for diabetes that can also result in a positive screen for meth and amphetamine, which is why you should tell everything about it beforehand.
  • Methylphenidate – Another way to get false-positive results for meth and speed is by consuming Ritalin or other drugs for ADHD that feature traces of amphetamines inside.
  • Labetalol – This is a common beta-blocker made explicitly for treating blood pressure issues. However, it may lead to false-positive results for LSD, meth, and amphetamine if you consume it regularly.

Final Word

As you can see from everything we have mentioned above, consuming prescription medication with legal and relevant prescription is not illegal, and you will have additional rights due to ADA. 

However, if you abuse prescription meds and use them without relevant prescription, you are consuming illegal drugs, and you will have to suffer consequences for it.

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