Updated on February 6, 2024
5 min read

What Happens If You Fail a Drug Test?

Key Takeaways

Some companies make passing a drug test a condition of employment. This condition prevents people who use drugs from gaining employment in these workforces.

Drug tests also ensure that no group or organization misuses prescription medications or uses illicit drugs.

Aside from employment, other reasons for drug testing include:

  • Sports organizations ⁠— to screen for performance-enhancing drugs and other substances
  • School enrollment ⁠— used to ensure students do not abuse or misuse drugs
  • Legal or forensic purposes ⁠— used for criminal investigations, motor accidents, or court cases

What Happens if You Fail a Pre-Employment Drug Test?

If your drug test results return positive after taking a pre-employment drug test, the consequences depend on your hiring manager. In most cases, the company will not hire you.

Your positive drug test may be a red flag for the employer, who can deny you a job position. In some cases, a company may hire you under certain conditions.

They may give you a chance to prove that you have been getting professional help or are willing to. However, this is rare.

What Happens if You Fail a Random Drug Test?

Like failing a pre-employment drug test, the consequences depend on your employer. In most cases, your employer won’t fire you on the spot.

If it is your first time failing a drug test, your employer may give you another chance to prove yourself. They may also push you into rehabilitation if you’re already an addict. Once you finish treatment, you can resume your work.

However, you can still get fired for failing a random drug test, especially if your drug use has become a reoccurring habit and has affected the workplace.

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Can You Go to Jail for a Failed Drug Test?

A failed drug test for employment purposes usually does not result in anything beyond   being rejected for the position you’re applying for.

Companies are not required to share the results of drug tests with any other entity. In many cases, they would be legally unable to do so even if they wanted to.

However, if the government is administering a drug test for probation, it is possible to go to jail for a failed test. Whether you can go to jail or not depends on the state you are in.

What Happens if You Are Arrested For a Failed Drug Test?

You can attend your hearing and oppose the allegations against you before a judge orders your probation revocation.

These hearings are crucial in determining if you will be subjected to further legal action. Having a knowledgeable Indiana probation violation attorney can help you navigate every part of the legal process.

Will a Positive Drug Test Stay on Your Record Forever?

A positive drug test stays on record for five years in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. You will need to finish the Return-to-Duty process and follow-up testing.

An employer is unable to access your drug testing results without your consent. However, you must offer approval to perform safety-sensitive job responsibilities.

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What Can You Do After A Failed Drug Test?

Don’t accept a failed test result if you don't use drugs. False positives do occur, and you can contest the result.

If you prove that you haven’t been using drugs despite a failed test, your results will change to negative. However, if you fail a second test, you could lose your job.

You can also fail a drug test if you’ve been using marijuana for medicinal purposes. If you are excluded or discriminated against for using medical marijuana, you have the right to sue your employer.

What Medications Can Trigger A False Positive Result?

Talk to your supervisor or HR manager if you suspect a false positive result. A failed test result can also occur due to certain medications, including:

  • Herbal supplements
  • Antidepressants
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Dextromethorphan (Robitussin, Delsym)
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Quinolone antibiotics

What Drugs Do Employers Test For?

A urine drug test is the most common test when employers screen job applicants or staff members for drug or alcohol use. A urinalysis determines the presence of drug residues that linger in the body once the effects have worn off.

A typical urine drug test for job applicants is a five-panel drug test, and tests for:

Types of Drug Tests

Drug tests or screenings use a biological sample to detect the presence of legal or illegal drugs. Drug tests typically detect drugs or alcohol in your:

  • Urine
  • Blood
  • Saliva
  • Sweat
  • Hair

There are various types of drug tests. The kind of test you take depends on what drugs are being tested and what types of specimens are collected.

The most common test is a urine test. In federally regulated programs, only urine samples are used for drug testing.

The two most common types of drug tests are 5-panel drug tests and 10-panel drug tests:

5-Panel Drug Tests

5-panel drug tests are more common and test for:

  • Marijuana
  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

10-Panel Drug Tests

A 10-panel drug test for:

  • Marijuana
  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone (Quaaludes)
  • Propoxyphene

Why Do Some Companies Require Drug Testing?

Many businesses have strict drug-free rules, and these tests enforce those rules. There are two types of drug tests that companies require:

  • Pre-employment drug testing ⁠ assesses if potential staff members use drugs
  • Random drug testing ⁠ administered without notice and ensures existing staff members comply with the company’s drug-free rules

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Employers and other organizations can use drug tests to prevent hiring drug users. They can also use them to identify people who misuse drugs in the workplace or organization.

An employer can deny employment or fire you if you fail a drug test. However, you should not just accept a failed drug test because false positives can occur.

Drug tests use a biological sample to detect the presence of legal or illegal drugs. These tests usually look for drugs or alcohol in the following body systems:

  • Urine
  • Blood
  • Saliva
  • Sweat
  • Hair

Make sure to disclose any medications that can trigger a false positive result.

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Updated on February 6, 2024

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