How Accurate Are Drug Tests?

How Accurate Are Drug Tests?


Why does everyone get so hung up about having
to take a drug test? If you’re not on vitamin B pills or sleep aides or ibuprofen or had
a poppy seed muffin you have nothing to hide! What’s up science junkies, Julian here for
DNews. If you’re applying for certain jobs or life insurance, you may have to take a
drug test. In some states here in the US applicants for government assistance have to pass a drug
test as well. That’s a bit of a controversial topic but regardless on where you stand on
it, you probably agree that someone who isn’t using illegal drugs shouldn’t be denied
a job or insurance or aid just because the test they took resulted in a false positive.
So these drug tests had better be pretty foolproof, right? Well they may not be up to snuff. It’s estimated
they produce false positives in 5-10% of cases. Judy Stone of Scientific American estimated
that taking into account normal drug use rates, about 9 out of every 1000 people will test
positive for a drug they have not taken. Part of the reason these tests sound a false
alarm is because the list of things that set them off is surprisingly long. The painkiller
Ibuprofen can cause a test to show positive for marijuana, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines.
Cold remedies, hay fever remedies, diet pills, and nasal decongestants can show up as amphetamines.
If you like to unwind with a poppy seed muffin and a gin and tonic, the poppies or quinine
in the tonic water can both trip the alarm for opiates. And of course eating foods with
hemp seeds or taking vitamin B supplements derived from hempseed oil can have trace amounts
of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. There are many varieties of drug tests and
they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Ideally they strike a balance between accuracy,
cost, and invasiveness. Like a blood test is the most accurate, but a lot of people
have a problem with needles. Hair tests aren’t as invasive but they can be expensive, depending
on how many substances they’re looking for, and some shampoos can throw off the scent. By far the most common method uses urine samples.
The test uses immunoassays, which are biochemicals that bond to specific macromolecules and give
off an indicator reaction. They’re pretty accurate but not perfect, so positive results
often undergo a second test. A gas chromatography/mass spectrometry test analyzes another urine sample,
usually taken from the original. The sample is pushed through a tubular column by helium
gas, and certain drugs pass through it at certain known speeds. Once it gets to the
end of the column, it’s fragmented with ionization and the fragments are sorted by
mass. Again, certain drugs have specific and known fragmentation patterns, so these two
tests together can give scientists a pretty solid idea of exactly what chemicals are present.
The test is more expensive, but the positive results are rarely wrong. Not all drug tests are designed to see if
someone has been using: some are designed to test if an object has been in contact with
illicit substances, or if something is a drug itself. Law enforcement uses these when investigating
drug dealers, but they aren’t perfect either. In 2003 a college freshman flying home for
the holidays was stopped in a Philadelphia airport because she had condoms filled with
white powder in her bag. She claimed it was flour, a gag gift from girlfriends and that
she squeezed them for stress relief, but sadly the tests didn’t vindicate her, coming up
positive for opium and cocaine. She spent 3 weeks in jail and could have gone to prison
for 20 years had more accurate tests not cleared her name. I’m sure she realizes her mistake
now, but for all of you out there let me just reiterate: do not bring white powder in condoms
through airports, it looks a little suspicious. So certain innocuous drugs can trip a drug
test, but that’s not the only risk. For why mixing certain drugs can make you dead,
you can turn to Trace over here. Do you
think the margin of error is good enough,
or is just one innocent person losing their job unacceptable? You can have your say down
in the comments, or on twitter with the hashtag #AskDNews, subscribe for more and I’ll see
you next time on DNews.


100 thoughts on “How Accurate Are Drug Tests?

  1. If my at home test came back negative, am I definitely okay? The last time I took an edible was 12/8 and I took the at home test 12/24 with a negative. My actual test will be 01/7. Will I be okay? I'm 129 lbs and I work out frequently

  2. Right and it should be illegal to drug test. The tests aren't 100% accurate. The test can't even distiguish if a positive result is caused by illicit or precribed drugs. Furthermore it is not the company's right to know what prescription drugs I am on or what condition os being treated unless purchased under their insurance.

  3. Also its a way of getting out of paying work mans comp. People who drink alcohol daily that get hurt will not test positive for the standard 5 panel test, but the guy that smokes after work…….shame,shame. What a loophole. I worry more about daily drinkers than daily smokers.

  4. I might have failed my drug test and might lose my job, because I take sleep aid every night. This fucking bull shit.

  5. The second you realize that drug tests are based in gambling, is the second you realize scientists are dicks.

  6. I'm 15 and my parents thought I was on drugs and made me take a urine home kit drug test I passed postive for benzodiazpenes and thc when I have not smoked any weed within quite a long time and I have never taken any form of pills or painkillers but they won't believe me what so ever because I have been acting different in there eyes how can I prove to them ?

  7. Don't demonize the drugs. It is the person not what substances give them pleasure. Step off the grass Sam lol

  8. I remember getting clean for a little over a month and I failed a drug test. I was so upset. It really depends how much you smoke and what you smoke too. I smoked dabs which are 100% THC and weed that was around 24-28% THC. I was dumb to think I would pass lol. If you want to get rid of THC from your system a super fast way, try doing a niacin flush. Niacin pills are available at Walmart in the vitamin aisle for like $8 a bottle. Take 2 every hour with lots of water, drink lots of water throughout the day, pee as much as you can, and exercise a little if you can, but DO NOT exercise 24 hours before the test. You will definitely fail.

  9. I've tested positive for Amphetamines and I have never taken any in my life. They say cold meds can set it off as positive but the only thing I've taken was Mucinex and I doubt that would cause anything. The type of test I took was a swab test the one you put in your mouth to get it wet with your saliva. I requested that they send it for a second test so I'll know next week what the results are. I should be good because I know I haven't taken any such drugs but for me to come up positive makes me wonder how accurate these drug tests really are.

  10. if these employers were really serious about minimizing drugs in the workplace, why don't they do an alcohol test as well…..

    dg ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡° )

  11. It's not a matter of having anything to hide. I don't think it's right for me to have to prove I'm not a drug user.

  12. sometimes not accurate at all. or its the person giving the drug test. They can lie. It's none of your business.

  13. Field testers don't work on me…neither urine or spit, I passed every single one of them, even when smoking just hours or the day before taking it.

  14. So I have a friend in the military, he smoked weed 2 times last week (9-13 days ago) probably smoked a total of 1 relatively small joint those times. He got drug tested 9 days later, but he took a home test and it came out negative. Does this mean the lab results will most likely come out negative too? I heard the cut off for the drug test is 50 ng/mL. Before that smoke session he probably smoked once a month before that

  15. Can a hair follicle drug test (or any drug test) scientifically prove you purposefully/intentionally TOOK a drug? Because the law is convicting me that I have purposely USED drugs rather then inadvertently/unintentionally USED drugs.

  16. FALSE TEST AND FALSE POSITIVE!!! THESE ARE QUOTES FROM LAB AND SCIENCE BLOGS. this test itself is prone to errors.
    Protonix–generic name pantoprazole sodium
    NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, Orudis KT, Advil, Motrin, and Aleve, were once thought to cause false positive
    Marinol, generic name dronabinol,
    Hemp seed oil, kidney disease, diabetes, liver disease and riboflavin, or B2, are also thought to be capable of causing a false positive
    SUBLINGUAL B12 in a direct test by a company in Florida that regularly test for this cannabinol.
    truly a LIE BECAUSE THC (DOES NOT SHOW IN URIN ) NEVER they are testing for (metabolites) . when they show then the lab claims this is proof of THC

  17. I did an at home $140 drug test that was given to me by my last manager and was purchased by the company to screen new employees. So it was supposed to be reasonably accurate. I tested positive for opiates =/ I have never done opiates in my life am not currently taking any medication of any kind not even ibuprofen or cough syrup and have not eaten any poppy seeds! wtf! Im kinda angry at the testing system right now.

  18. So can I just say I take ibuprofen for my back, I do have a bad back but I smoke weed. Would that work or no?

  19. Marijuana tests for life insurance is driven by stigmatism if you ask me. People associate marijuana with gangs first rather than a college freshman studying computer science. I don't believe there is any evidence to conclude that marijuana use shortens lifespans since formal, unbiased, federally approved research is hard to come by. This is because the only institutions federally authorized to distribute marijuana for laboratory use and license their operations campaign against usage of marijuana entirely.

    Insurance companies are likely looking for affiliations with gangs rather than a scientific reason to deny life insurance coverage. Because, if you think about it, gang members are more likely to be killed than non-gang members. The problem is that normal people far outnumber gang-affiliated marijuana users.

    As for marijuana tests for jobs, this makes no sense to me. The recreational usage of marijuana is no different than the recreational use of alcohol. The only difference is that marijuana is much harder to be addicted to. So does it make sense that an occasional marijuana user would be denied a job while an alcoholic that's late for work every so often because of their habits is not?

  20. i am so mad because i just found out that the clinic i go to for methadone told me i had a urine that came back positive for opium, but i didnt use drugs i do smoke weed sometimes

  21. My parents tested me with one of thoes home tests and it came up positive for THC even though i never had even smoked in the last 8 months, they even posted it on fucking facebook and i told them it was wrong, but what do i know… cause ya know the test is always right according to them i honestly will never trust a drug test ever again

  22. If tests aren't accurate then why the fuk do we listen to a electric powered fukin object to decide? I was high af and passed idk how, but I been smoking weed most of my life. Like if yous aren't gonna pay me for sitting on my ass at home getting high then piss off and eat a fat one mate!!!

  23. The government wants you on drugs but just the ones Congress holds in shares of stock. They won't you doing drugs that damage your body so then they can collect money from pills and health care that they hold stock in also. They want you doing cigarettes and alcohol and opiates because they get a cut of the action.

  24. I was getting admitted to a mental health facility and I had to do a drug test and it said i had THC (I kinda understand) Barbituates and benzos. I was like HOLD Up lol. And no, i dont smoke laced weed lol

  25. I'm so relieved that I'm not the only falsepositive now
    I'm 59 yrs old…..
    Had a family Dr. I loved for over 10 yrs. Due to taking antihistamines I tested positive to only loose my trusted family Dr. Unfortunatly I'm disabled & need care…..now what do I do ? I'm so very embarrased

  26. My unkle could not get a job becuse he tested posative on the drug test he was taking medication at the time soo

  27. stupid fool , There is no test that test for the active ingredient for Delta 9 THC / therefore all cannabis test are faults

  28. a 74 year old veteran got 30 to life for 12 plants that same week a Stamford student was only sentenced to 6 MONTHS for rape. Our system is very broken………

  29. So you should not be allowed to work if you use marajuan. You feel other people bosses or government officials have a need to know or a right to check your bodily fluids at any time for any reason. Because if you have nothing to hide than you have a 90,% chance it will be ok.

  30. Let me get this right. You have to pass a test to receive government benefits that you paid for in taxes yet you do not have to pass a test "before" paying taxes. What about testing congressmen and our president? What about the fourth Amendment and the fifth amendment protections against search and seizure and the probable cause protections in our constitution? Is being poor probable cause to search your body? What about civil rights. Can a specific class if income earners be tested with no probable cause? Who pays for these tests? Who pays for the legal battle when false positives occur? Who pays for the destroyed lives?

  31. It's not just the urine tests that give false positives. The field tests are a "prop used to extract confessions from suspects", but most police don't know this. They believe the tests are real. People are being arrested. It costs THOUSANDS of dollars, and many innocent people are manipulated to agree to accept a "deal". Their lives are destroyed by this, and some of them have literally NEVER used drugs, and test negative on drug tests. Crime labs are finding sugar, bread crumbs, etc, submitted as "evidence". By the time those gas chromatography reveals the person's innocence, they have spent many thousands of dollars, their name has been dragged through the mud. It is a terrible injustice.
    https://youtu.be/vEcUBRqlKdw

  32. I have nothing to hide I’m a Mormon. I just got a job and I am a little upset about this I went to doctors for my physical which made me feel violated as a sexual assault victim and in no way making a sexual assault victim (recent) change okay it can be triggering and could have sent me over the deep end. This job has violated me I hate it but I only took it so I had money to move out

  33. Drug tests are a form of discrimination and employers should be ashamed for turning away valuable talent. Drug tests are used to prove ANY RECORD OF USE rather than regular abuse.. you could of quit a year ago, but because you hit the weed EVER IN YOUR LIFE YOU DONT GET THE JOB LOL.

  34. Communism is all it is ! Welcome to the United communist states of America ! The truth hurts, but that's the way it is !

  35. It is a moot point. The government has no right to legislate what someone does with their own body. We are autonomous creatures and no government owns our bodies, even though most think that they do.

  36. If they aren’t 100% accurate or at least 99.9% accurate why are they allowed to be used in the work place. You are just allowing companies to gamble with the workers well being and their families financial stability. There is a reason most countries don’t allow this in the work place, this shit violates privacy, the 4th amendment, and aren’t even close to being accurate enough to be used reliably.

  37. Invasion of privacy! No one has a right to know what you put in YOUR BODY. Look at the 4th amendment! It’s clear as day! Drug test doesn’t test for impairment! Its useless.

  38. I work for a company that has a lot of intelligence on this – 99% accuracy across pretty much all competent screeners.

  39. Its completley unacceptable. I am in the middle of this with my husband. He has not used in over a year and wouldnt throw his progress away. Im lookong for a lawyer as we sleak.

  40. I test positive for codeine , used cough syrup 15 days prior . How long will stay in my urine

    Fail no seconds test no employment

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