When it comes to drug screens, we often hear “false positive” as an excuse from pro athletes — but unexpected drug test results do happen. In drug screening, a “false positive” means that a sample is falsely reported as positive even if it is actually drug-free. An inaccurate test result indicates a patient or test subject has a certain amount of drug metabolites in their bloodstream.
How Can This Happen?
False-positive drug tests can occur for a variety of reasons, such as the following:
- The substance cutoff amount is extremely low. If the drug testing lab uses an unnecessarily low minimum for drug verification, the patient who was exposed to drug components by mistake could be surprised by a positive result. For example, if the cutoff level is too low, secondhand marijuana smoke could cause the results to be positive.
- Cross-reactivity between substances that are identical to drug ingredients. Other substances that are close to active drug metabolites, such as poppy seeds that were mistakenly thought to be opiates, may be found.
- Mixing of samples – At the collection point, mixing of samples may occur if the specialists fail to properly label and mark the samples as soon as they arrive.
In certain cases, a drug test could reveal the existence of illegal drugs despite the fact that no drugs were consumed. Although this is not normal, no test can be guaranteed to be 100% accurate. Some of the errors are due to lab errors, but the majority of false positives are due to over-the-counter medications and foods that can impact the test.
Here are a few examples:
|If you take or eat||You could test positive for|
|Hay fever remedies||Amphetamine|
|Hemp food products**||Marijuana|
What Are the Odds and Consequences of a False Positive Drug Test?
Since drug screening findings may have a negative impact on a variety of situations, accuracy is critical. The risk of a false positive drug test is a concern for someone who is conducting an illegal drug test, whether it is a urine, hair, saliva, or blood test. Previous research indicates that 5 to 10% of all drug tests could be false positives, and 10 to 15% could be false negatives.
The growing use of onsite, occupational random drug testing and home-testing kits highlights the value of accurate, confirmatory testing. The following are some of the negative effects of false-positive drug tests:
- Loss of work
- Withdrawal from competitive sports
What to Do in Case of a False Positive?
Ask For a Retest?
If you take a drug test and think something produced a false positive result, there is indeed a solution. Simply put, you can request a retest of your sample from the lab that analyzed it, as normal practice calls for two portions of research samples. The first is normally checked right away, while the second is saved for a potential retest. If a retest results in a positive outcome, it might be time to seek competent legal advice about filing a new appeal. In any case, you have weapons at your hands to defend your rights and fight for a fair chance.
Sue for a False Positive Drug Test?
Responsibility of laboratories is a developing legal consensus. Before, drug testing laboratories were essentially lawless for incorrect test results. However, in recent years, laboratories have been frequently sued and held responsible for damages. There are a lot of successful litigations against drug testing laboratories that are linked to the termination of jobs.
- In Landon v. Kroll Laboratory Specialists: the defendant was fired as a result of false-positive drug test results. He was denied the legal right to sue because the laboratory used a lower-than-recommended threshold for checking THC in the bloodstream. Landon was permitted to sue Kroll Laboratories for “negligent research” because of the lower standards.
- An employee was fired in the Sharpe v. St. Luke’s Hospital after a positive cocaine test which resulted from normal, random drug testing. The employee claimed that several incidents at the hospital tainted the chain of custody for her urine tests, causing her sample to test positive when it shouldn’t have. The case was subjected to several judicial inquiries.
The hospital “should have known that any negligence concerning the specimen management could threaten the worker’s employment” the Pennsylvania Supreme Court eventually ruled. It was then stated that a violation of the duty of due care will result in foreseeable serious harm (termination of gainful employment) as a result of inaccurate results.
- Before talking about our last case, know that drug research firms are also being investigated for causing indirect damages to patients, in addition to workplace problems. In Devore v. Magee-Hospital Women of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the defendant settled with a mother who lost her baby due to an incorrect drug test. A mother whose child was taken away from her family for five days due to a false positive drug test received a $143,500 payout from Jameson Hospital in a related case.
There are several other cases in which laboratories might have been held responsible for losses incurred by inaccurate test results. False positives aren’t the only risk of drug tests in a workplace. A false negative may expose the laboratory to damages if a workplace accident occurs as a result of an employee being under the influence of drugs.
This is because the person who caused the accident would not have been operating if the diagnosis was right. Misdiagnosis of medication performance in therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) can lead to addiction or bring adverse effects, as well as liability risk for the laboratories.
What Is the First Thing to Do When You Have a False-Positive Test?
When an initial screening test shows a positive result, confirmatory checks must be accompanied by GC/MS procedures in order to reduce the probability of a false positive to zero. GC/MS stands for Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry analysis, which is one type of testing methods used for drug testing.
A false positive or false negative outcome can no longer happen with the GC/MS. However, the best way to avoid a false positive test is to avoid taking any drugs in the first place.
How to Fight a False Positive?
As we already established, drug tests have become typical for employment, athletic, educational, or other hazardous reasons. Usually, employers use drug tests to discourage employees from using drugs or to narrow down potential new hires.
In case you were tested positive and believe that something has triggered a false result, you can take a few specific actions to amend this situation. If you want to fight a false positive, you need to be familiar with your rights.
Even though testing methods have improved over the years, mistakes happen, and false positives occur. In that case, you have to speak with your boss to see what options are available. Many workplace testing programs have a medical professional who collects the samples.
Therefore, if you have received positive drug test results and believe they are false positives, you can speak to this medical professional. Usually, prescribed drugs lead to false positives, and you will be able to clear this in a second.
You can also experience false positives due to some lab mistake. You can always request your sample to be retested, considering a standard protocol demands for test samples to have two portions. One portion is tested immediately, and the second one is saved for a possible retest. If your test results come back positive again, then you might have to seek legal counseling.