Will these totally legal drugs keep me from getting the job?
March 15, 2009 6:31 PM   Subscribe

I may have to take a pre-employment drug test very soon, and I'm worried about whether the totally legal and authorized stimulants I'm taking are going to keep me from getting hired. Are my worries reasonable, and if so is there anything I should do to protect myself?

I've got to either accept or reject a job offer on Monday. If I accept it, I suspect that I'll be asked to go pee in a vial somewhere within 24 hours of saying "yes." I've always passed these tests in the past, but I'm worried because of my totally legal recent pill use.

I have a prescription for Vyvanse, an ADHD-treating amphetamine, and I take these pills five days a week to function at work. I hadn't been diagnosed and prescribed anything last time I started a new job. I took my last Vyvanse pill on Friday, and plan on taking another tomorrow morning before I head to the office.

I'm also sick right now, and this morning I took some Sudafed (the controlled substance kind that you have to show ID for). If I'm still feeling this crummy in the morning, I'm planning to take another so that I can be a functioning worker bee instead of a mess of hacking phlegm.

Should I skip these pills tomorrow as a precaution? Should I mention them when I go in for drug testing? Are my worries unfounded?
posted by croutonsupafreak to Work & Money (16 answers total)
They will ask you what prescription drugs you are taking and what OTC pills you may have taken. At worst, they will call your prescribing physician. I don't think you have anything to worry about.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:35 PM on March 15, 2009

A.) They will ask for and make a note of what drugs you're taking. What you should ask is if they pass this information along to your employer, who has no business knowing that kind of information.

B.) You should reject any job that requires you to pee in a cup.
posted by wfrgms at 6:49 PM on March 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

IANA urinalysis technician, I cannot speak with authority on how your particular medication will affect your test results-

But I am in HR and have administered my company's drug free workplace program for about ten years, and have been asked questions like this by plenty of new hires.

ADHD medication has shown up as an amphetmine in many, many of our tests. But it all depends on the company's particular DFWP policy. Our policy states that such medications are fine as long as the candidate has a current, valid doctor's prescription.

Which you say you do. So under a similar policy, you would be fine.

What happens with our system is this- a positive test result is first communicated to the applicant, not to me. The applicant speaks with the MRO (Medical Review Officer) and is given the opportunity to provide proof of prescription. If it all checks out, then the the applicant gets an "all clear".

If the applicant has been taking someone else's controlled substances without a valid Rx, then they fail.

If you are concerned, you should ask the drug test administrator of this company- ask how their program handles prescription meds. You might hesitate to do so, since your health is your business- but if it's going to show up in the test anyhow, they're going to find out.
posted by GuffProof at 6:50 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I also think you'll be fine, just remember not to eat any poppyseed bagels. Mythbusters showed just one bagel can actually make you test positive for opiates.

And the Sudafed drugs are controlled because you can make crystal meth out of the antihistamine contained in it --> after some chemical processing (reactions). The sudafed itself doesn't contain any 'bad' things, so go ahead and take it if you feel crummy.
posted by lizbunny at 6:53 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I stopped taking my Ritalin before my pre-employment drug test a couple years ago, after a friend of mine (an electrician) had to go to inpatient drug counseling after testing positive for dexedrine, which he was taking by prescription for his psychiatrist-diagnosed ADHD. I just did not want to deal with even the remotest possibility of having a job prospect 86'ed because of my perfectly legit meds. So I stopped taking my Ritalin a couple weeks before the test, and did not declare it when they asked if I was taking any medicines. Still in that job and I do not regret my decision.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:54 PM on March 15, 2009

I should add: my electrician friend was drug-tested by his union, not his employer, but still. To be forced into drug counseling because you tested positive for a drug you have a prescription for is just hell.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:57 PM on March 15, 2009

Just a clarification about the employer 'finding out', since my answer was unclear-

When an applicant tests positive, they ARE contacted first and go through the process with the MRO. THEN we (the company) are notifed that the results are "presumed positive and under review".

So when amphetamines show up in a test, whether prescribed or not, we are told about it.

I understand the desire for privacy when it comes to health issues. You may hesitate to disclose your ADHD to a prospective employer for fear of negative backlash.

Speaking only for myself, my company and our policy- we don't care what you're taking as long as you've got a valid prescription. YMMV.
posted by GuffProof at 7:03 PM on March 15, 2009

I have had to pee in a cup at several jobs while I was on prescription narcotics (Vicoden). When asked, and there will either be a line on a form or you will be interviewed, I told them straight up, on the Vikes. Never heard back and got the jobs. I subsequently found out that the person in my job prior to me had failed the test (marijuana) 3 times. They just let him take it again after he claimed second hand smoke and other flimsy excuses. They finally told him his next test would be in 5 weeks. Even he passed that one. The point being that company policy varies widely and just giving a test upon hire does not mean that they will ever test you again or even have a significant strict policy.

Maybe Guffproof could answer, but it strikes me as discriminatory if they withdraw their offer because you test positive for a drug that is legally prescribed.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:17 PM on March 15, 2009

Hmmmm. I think I'm gonna skip the Vyvanse tomorrow, just to be safe, but still mention the prescription during the test. And I'll use the Sudafed, so I can keep breathing. And probably drink lots and lots of water, just because I'm neurotic. Thanks for this advice.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:49 PM on March 15, 2009

Sorry to chime in again, but drinking "lots and lots of water" is probably a bad idea.

When a urine sample is collected, the concentration is analyzed. A sample that is too dilute (watery) will be rejected as such- the assumption being that the applicant was trying to flush something out of their system prior to the test.

In our program, a dilute sample is automatically flagged and the super-hydrated donor has to give a second sample-- under "direct observation".

Which is exactly what it sounds like. The technician stands there and watches you go.

Again, this is our procedure, yours may vary. But we have utilized two different clinics over the years and this was standard for both.

Also, skipping one pill might not matter. Some substances disappear quickly, others hang around in your system for weeks if not months.

To answer JohnnyGunn's comment about discrimination- I follow you. In this state, an employer cannot take action against someone on the basis of 'lawful use of lawful products'. Such as cigarettes, alcohol (off duty), and prescrbed meds. Which is why we would only withdraw the job offer if the applicant was using without a prescription.

But state laws vary- and I've been hearing a lot lately about employers in other states refusing to hire smokers, and/or firing smokers who fail to quit within a certain timeframe. I'm sure the courts will be seeing challenges to these policies, but for now this is happening in some places.
posted by GuffProof at 8:07 PM on March 15, 2009

The way it's supposed to work -- you disclose your lawful prescriptions to drug testing person or agency; take drug test; fact of lawful prescriptions is supposed to be kept to drug testing person/agency; only a positive result for *illegal* drugs is supposed to be disclosed from drug testing person/agency to employer/HR.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:00 PM on March 15, 2009

Smoking isn't a protected activity/smokers aren't a protected class. Unless some smart lawyer argues that smoking is a protected medical condition, the courts will toss any lawsuits re: smokers being fired. Those employers have a valid business concern: smokers are less productive and more disruptive in the workplace and the cost to insure them is higher.

As to the OP's question: take your prescription like you're supposed to and just disclose that you've done so.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 10:17 PM on March 15, 2009

Smoking is a legal activity and should be treated like any other.

Overweight people should not be subject to being fired due to worries over future health concerns. The same case should be made for smokers.

But then again this is one of the problems that happens when you tie employment to health care.

Sorry to go off tangent.
posted by Allan Gordon at 12:33 AM on March 16, 2009

Employees fired and fined for smoking, obesity and blood test results, so it looks like not only can you be fired for smoking legal cigarettes, you can also be fired for eating too many legal donuts. here is an article about a specific incident.
posted by delmoi at 1:44 AM on March 16, 2009

So I stopped taking my Ritalin a couple weeks before the test, and did not declare it when they asked if I was taking any medicines. Still in that job and I do not regret my decision.

Sorry, but I heard somewhere that amphetamines can still be detected months and months afterwards. This chart I pulled says two days. I don't think skipping one dose is going to help you. Ask your doctor.
posted by anniecat at 6:53 AM on March 16, 2009

Aaaannnnd they don't actually drug test after all. I misunderstood something at some point during the interview process and got paranoid over nothing.

Hopefully this question will help some other unlucky applicant at some point down the line. Thanks, all!
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:51 PM on March 16, 2009

« Older Nancy Drew as cook and housecleaner?   |   Heat Resistent Adhesive? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.