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Which Commonly Used Substances Are Likely to Cause a False Positive?

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Have you been asked to provide a biological sample for drug screening? A positive drug test can have some undesirable repercussions. Your boss may use it to suspend or fire you; it may ruin your reputation or even bar you from participating in various activities such as sporting activities. It also necessitates a rehabilitation plan to ensure you can cope with the urge to use illicit substances.

While a positive drug test indicates the presence of some form of an illicit drug in the body, simple tests such as immunoassay test (IA) often do not suffice to show one’s sobriety or lack thereof. It is possible to possess metabolic forms of illicit drugs in your system without actually taking illegal medication. When you are screened using the IA test, your results are likely to come back positive even though you have not abused the drug being tested. This indicates a false positive drug test.

These results are commonly known as false positives. They show the presence of some form of the illicit drug in the body even though the drug may have been obtained in other ways and not abusing the drug being tested. A test such as IA test is less accurate than Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-SM); hence, more likely to bring back a false positive.

A false positive can be caused by a wide range of items, including everyday products such as poppy seeds and ibuprofen. These substances may be ingested for reasons such as medical purposes or as ingredients for our everyday foodstuffs. However, they are broken down in the body and may present as metabolic forms of illegal substances in simple tests. One requires complex and, often, expensive tests such as GC-SM or high-performance liquid chromatography to accurately establish if the metabolic forms were introduced into the body from illegal substances. Here are ten everyday products that may cause a false positive.

1. Food

Can you imagine your desire to satisfy your need to eat is the reason why you get a positive drug test? Well, it sounds crazy, but food can be a source of a false positive during a drug test. It is possible for your drug test to come back as a false positive for alcohol once you consume a lot of food that is rich in yeast.

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During the metabolism of yeast, ethanol is formed as a by-product. Once you are subjected to a breathalyzer after you have consumed food rich in yeast, the ethanol that forms during metabolism can bring back a false positive for alcohol. As such, food such as bread, ripe fruits, and pizza ought to be avoided when you are going to be subjected to a drug screening in a few hours. Granola bars can also lead to a false positive. Granola bars have hemp seeds as one of its ingredients. The hemp seeds can bring a false positive when testing for cannabis or THC.

2. Sudafed/ Pseudoephedrine

A harmless substance used to treat sinusitis, nasal congestion, and allergies resulting in breathing difficulties, Sudafed can lead to a false positive during the screening of drugs. Manufacturers use manufactured amphetamines to make Sudafed; hence, when broken down in the body, it can lead to traces of methamphetamines or amphetamines being detected in your blood. These compounds are detectable during drug screening for up to two days after consumption.

3. Ibuprofen

Can you believe that curing pain with ibuprofen can lead to a false positive? Ibuprofen is routinely prescribed by doctors or physicians to cure sickness or inflammation in the body. It is a member of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory class of drugs.

Once ingested, it takes around three hours for ibuprofen to lead to a false positive of cannabis, barbiturates, and PCP in your urine. The wrong positive shows for people whose consumption falls within the range of 800 to 1200 milligrams per day. These users of the drug can have a false positive for marijuana use in the IA test. Subsequent confirmatory tests such as high-performance liquid chromatography and GC-SM test are required to ascertain whether the first positive result is genuine or a false positive.

4. Antiretroviral Drugs

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These are common drugs and have efavirenz. This component presents itself as an illicit substance during screening. Efavirenz can easily be mistaken for the presence of benzodiazepine and marijuana in the blood. One can easily be mistaken for an illegal drug user even though they are using ARVs. Secondary confirmatory testing is necessary to ascertain if one is abusing drugs or not.

5. Sertraline

When you are seeking employment, your potential employer may subject you to a mandatory drug test as a condition for work. Once the results are back, a positive test result is likely to ensure your potential employer passes up the chance of hiring you. However, it is crucial you notify your employer if you are using sertraline before the drug test. This notification is essential as it will not jeopardize your credibility as you make your case after a false positive.

Sertraline is an antidepressant and leading source of a false positive. Once broken down in the body, sertraline forms traces of benzodiazepine that are detected during drug screening. A majority of antidepressants such as sertraline have similar chemical structures to amphetamines and benzodiazepine. When it is broken down in the body, it results in the same end products as those that are formed after benzodiazepine is broken down; hence, the false positive.

6. Poppy Seeds

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Poppy seeds are everyday harmless substances we use for several reasons. It may be an ingredient in making porridge and cake. We also use it as a treatment for constipation, diarrhea, sleeping difficulty, and cough. However, using poppy seeds a day or two before a drug test can lead to a false positive. Poppy seeds contain traces of morphine and codeine in their natural state. A false positive can be brought about by poppy seeds when you are being screened for the use of morphine or codeine.

Can you imagine an innocent bite off that cookie you made causing you trouble at work? Consuming cookies made from poppy seeds can result in a false positive. The breakdown of the wafer can result in a false positive for up to two days since the ingestion of the cookie. In light of poppy seeds resulting in false positives, the DHHS raised the cut-off point of opiates to 1999 ng/ml. This increase was necessary to distinguish people abusing codeine and morphine from innocent people who enjoyed foodstuffs made with poppy seeds and those who use them for medicinal purposes.

7. Prednisone

Prednisone belongs to a broad category of substances called glucocorticoids and is used in the treatment of inflammation that is caused by rheumatoid or asthma conditions. People also use it to remedy high calcium levels that may be caused by insufficient production by the adrenal gland or cancer and for suppression of one’s immune system. This alternative use of prednisone can alter your drug test to bring back a false positive. False positives can be gotten if prednisone is used up to a day before the drug test. Prednisone brings back a false positive for steroids since it is a steroid itself. Further experiments are necessary to distinguish false positives that are occasioned by a false positive due to the use of prednisone before the drug test.

8. Passive Weed Smoking

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Nearly everyone has come across people indulging in some marijuana in their life. The distinguishing difference for a large percentage of people is some come across them regularly while some rarely. These marijuana users can be your friends, neighbors, family, or just strangers. However, your interaction with such people can lead to a false positive.

A false positive happens if testing for marijuana is done a day after exposure. Additionally, there is a high likelihood for a false positive if the person being screened is confined in a similar room as smokersThe smoke you inhale after smoker’s exhale can lead to traces of marijuana being present in your body.

9. Cold Medication

It is common practice to rush to the drug store and get some over-the-counter drugs whenever we are suffering from a cold. However, little do we know that these OTC drugs may present a false positive during a drug test.

Common cold medications may present a false positive when screening for amphetamines. These cold medications contain brompheniramine which yields similar by-products as methamphetamines when they are metabolized in the body. Cold medication such as Vicks inhaler, a treatment for nasal congestion caused by flu, has levomethamphetamine which, when tested, shows a similar structure to methamphetamine. This structure leads to a false positive even though one has not actively ingested methamphetamines.

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10. Baby Soap

It is no secret that mothers have to wash their infant babies often during the day. While cleaning them, mothers use solvents such as Aveeno Soothing Relief Creamy Wash and CVS Night-time Baby Bath. When babies who use these solvents are tested for marijuana use, their samples are likely to bring back a false positive even though neither the baby nor the mother has come into contact with marijuana. This false positive occurs due to the use of these solvents. The use of marijuana during pregnancy can lead to babies being born with congenital anomalies; hence, when this anomaly shows babies are likely to be screened for traces of marijuana in their system.

It is not clear how traces of marijuana end up in the infants’ system. However, some health professionals speculate that the presence of a marijuana-like substance in their system is due to the chemical structure of some of the components of the solvents. They claim that some ingredients have similar chemical structure as THC, which is an active ingredient in marijuana. Exactly how the soap contents make their way to the infant’s body system is still a mystery.

Steps you can Take after a False Positive

It is advisable for you to disclose all the substances that you are taking that may lead to a false positive before a drug test. However, if you fail to disclose such before the drug test and you are confident that you have not used any illicit substances before the drug test, you may register your protests with the person who ordered the drug screening. Offer your samples for a second confirmatory test. Confirmatory tests such as Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry and High-Performance Liquid Chromatography Test can dispel any doubts as to the reliability of the test results. Many people often rely on these more accurate tests for confirmation. They are not the initial test as they are expensive and require sophisticated equipment.