Potential new job - but I'm not sure I can pass a drug test. Help!
May 30, 2011 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Complicated situation involving current boss, potential new job and a drug test I'm not sure I can pass. I really need advice!

I work in fundraising for a non-profit in the Pacific Northwest. My boss, who I work very well with and like, is leaving for another organization, as our current organization is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. She has made two (unsolicited) connections on my behalf regarding job opportunities, as she is well connected in the community (and a great contact to have).

This question is regarding one of these job opportunities. She met with the Director of Development at this organization and spoke so well of me the Director, according to my boss, seemed ready to hire me on the spot. My boss said no, interview him first. I would also of course like to interview first, as I'm not even sure I want the job. In any case, I am expecting to get a call for an interview early this week. The job is closer to my home and would most likely pay decently more money; though I am still unsure if it is an organization I would be happy at.

Last Friday, I submitted my paperwork - resume, letter and an application required by all potential employees to fill out. And that's when I became concerned, as there is an entire page in the application that states, in a somewhat demagoguing way, that all applicants, before a final offer of employment, will be required to submit to a drug test.

Uh oh.

I've been pretty much a daily pot smoker for 6 years. I stopped smoking when I saw the page in the application and started doing the 'drinking lots of water and cranberry juice' thing, but considering that marijuana is cumulative and my interview will likely be later this week, with the potential drug screening looming presumably shortly after that, I'm not sure I stand a chance of passing.

I also take crazy meds, prescribed of course, and, according to the page in the application, would be required to submit written notes from my doctor regarding these. That wouldn't be a problem.

This is of course complicated by the fact that, if offered a position, and if required to take a drug test before employment, and if I take it and fail, it will get back to my current boss. The Director of Development at the new organization would certainly tell her they couldn't hire me because of complications with my drug screening. While this wouldn't be the end of the world, it wouldn't be great, especially since my boss is so willing to go to bat for me when it comes to employment, etc.

I don't know what to do. As I see it, I have these options:

1) Drink lots of water this week, don't smoke, and hope for the best if I get offered the position and am required to take the test. There is of course a chance they won't follow through with the screening; the organization involves working with at-risk youth, and it's possible that it is more of a deterrent in the application - but there is of course no way to tell. If I did take the test and it came back positive, well, I'd have to explain some things to my current boss as well as do some damage control as the non-profit community in my city is small.

2) Go to the interview and if asked to submit to a drug test, simply turn down the position, telling them that it didn't seem like the best fit and there's no need follow through with the rest of the process. Tell my boss I didn't get a great vibe from the place and just cut my losses as far as the new job goes.

There is no immediate danger of my losing my current job. I should also note that this is not a field I want to stay in and am actively trying to figure out how to transition out of. The new job, beyond the potential pay increase, would be a largely lateral move. Still, I'd rather not burn bridges or hurt my reputation.

What should I do? Is there any chance of passing the drug test? Should I, as a pot smoker, just avoid working for such organizations? All of this is a bit presumptuous, I admit, but taking the possibility of having to take a drug test in a week is giving me anxiety up the wazoo, which is being exacerbated of course by the quitting smoking weed.

I've set up a throwaway account: an.ambitious.stoner@gmail.com

I will also respond to any questions via the mods.

Thank you so much hive mind.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Here is my internet-quality advice: go through with it with confidence. When the topic of the drug test comes up:

1) Refuse. Say "I don't take anything that would affect my performance of this job and I am not a thief."
2) Take the test. From what I understand it's much more expensive to test for pot, so most tests do not include it.

Why would it get back to your boss? Surely there is confidentiality in drug testing. Hopefully someone with more knowledge steps up here.

Aside from all this, is there a chance you could ascend to your ex-boss' position and un-dysfunctionalize the org?
posted by rhizome at 11:04 AM on May 30, 2011

Many employers include the drug test provision in their employment contracts, but don't actually do any testing by default. It's mostly there so they can have you tested later if problems develop, or if you work in part of the company that actually requires it (operating warehouse machinery, commercial driving, etc).

I'm not saying that you won't get tested, but it's not always a given that you *will* get tested.

Can you postpone the hiring process another week, citing "scheduling conflicts" or something? It'd give you another week to flush your system (though I have no experience with that, so don't know if it would make a difference).
posted by jpeacock at 11:11 AM on May 30, 2011

An interesting problem. The first idea that came to mind was to go get yourself a drug testing kit and try it on yourself to see if you test positive. If it does then obviously you shouldn't go to the interview. If it doesn't....good luck with your new job!

Also on googling here is the scoop on drug tests and what is involved in beating them.

Lest y'all think i'm a stoner, i'm not. Never tried it. But something about mandatory testing for a harmless drug (compared to alcohol) gets my goat, so I thought I'd pitch in with .02
posted by storybored at 11:20 AM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also take crazy meds, prescribed of course, and, according to the page in the application, would be required to submit written notes from my doctor regarding these. That wouldn't be a problem.

That seems really strange to me and borderline illegal. You don't seem concerned about it (personally I would be even more offended by this than by the drug test), but perhaps if you start kicking up a fuss it could buy you time and or even get you of everything entirely.
posted by unannihilated at 11:44 AM on May 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

You should only need a note from your doctor about any prescriptions if they show up on the drug test. Is this company asking you to list all your medications anyway? If you are in the US they really can't do that and I wouldn't tell them at all.

Drug tests are for specific things and there are a lot of outcomes: they may not test for pot (many companies don't), it may come back negative anyway, they may not actually care about a positive for pot.
posted by magnetsphere at 12:14 PM on May 30, 2011

Are you skinny or do you have a lot of body fat? That can have a significant effect on retentionl. If you are very skinny, you have a much better chance of flushing in time.

Go to the store, get an OTC diuretic and start exercising and drinking lots of water. Also, try to limit sodium intake. Avoid processed and frozen foods, soda, etc.

Finally, get self tests at a pharmacy and test yourself several times before the test day comes up. Many headshops also sell "drinks" that are supposed to mask falsify drug test results. I would only recomemnd using these as a last resort.

There are also other methods such as fake urine but these can be a lot harder to pull off. My recommendation is to try your hardest to flush using the methods above.
posted by mungaman at 12:20 PM on May 30, 2011

This could be inaccurate, as I am not a legal or medical or legal medical professional, but:

I also take crazy meds, prescribed of course, and, according to the page in the application, would be required to submit written notes from my doctor regarding these. That wouldn't be a problem.

That actually does sound like a problem to me. I did a little tiny bit of research on HIPAA, and it sounds like your potential employer is requiring you to provide individually identifiable health information, which is against HIPAA privacy rules. There's more information here, and you should certainly research this before taking a stand on it. But I personally would object to that kind of question, and I would not answer it. Even if your meds are for completely mundane things like seasonal allergies, you should have no obligation to provide a potential employer with private health information.

That gives me as much pause, future-employer-wise, as the drug test itself.
posted by brina at 12:45 PM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Agreed with others that they may not actually have you take a drug test, or they might do it later on. My husband and a friend of mine both work for companies that "require" drug testing; friend has worked for his financial services firm for a year and a half and they never made him take his, and my husband has had the form for the drug test for a few months now and they basically said "whenever you have time, go do it", but they haven't pressed him.

I too am concerned about the requirement for prescription medication disclosure. The only acceptable reason, in my opinion, for a company to require a doctor's note is if you are taking a medication that would create a positive on a drug test, ie, narcotics or amphetamines. If you are taking non-narcotic medication, you should not feel obligated to disclose it.
posted by bedhead at 1:11 PM on May 30, 2011

As rhizome points out, there is a third option: refusal. Since there's no legal requirement for these tests in most positions (though there may be financial incentives via tax breaks or the like) it's up to employers to choose to put them in place. People's willingness to submit to them is what enables them to make the decision.

Personally I'd decline to take one as a condition of employment - I just don't want to work at the kind of place that asks that of people. Theoretically I can be asked to take one by my current employer and I'd think long and hard about what I'd do if faced with the request. You may not be at a place in your career where you can afford to take such a stance but if you're really this ambivalent about the position then it might be the best way to go.

That's not saying it's risk-free. Some people will think less of you for taking a stance against the nation's current drug policy. Some folks will think it's only a thin screen for being a user yourself rather than a moral stance. Your current boss may be one of those and this could impact your interaction with her in the future.

If you're not willing to state a moral objection then I'd say go ahead and go to the interview. Given your ambivalence you may find it's not that interesting to you and you can simply tell them, honestly, that you don't think you're a good fit for each other so there's no point in going further in the process.

good luck.
posted by phearlez at 1:25 PM on May 30, 2011

Not to mention that this position is only on the radar because of the recommendation of a higher-up. Play your cards, they will already want you if they're going to try to test you.
posted by rhizome at 1:52 PM on May 30, 2011

Some data points that may or may not be useful, from a hiring manager's perspective:

1. I work for a company that requires drug tests. The tender of employment is contingent on taking the drug test, and passing. If you refuse, the offer is voided. I've heard here before that people think this is illegal; I assure you, it is not. (We do a substantial amount of work with municipal, state, and the Federal government; we are very, very careful about even the hint of illegality or impropriety).

2. We do test for marijuana usage. I know a casual pot smoker who suspended smoking about two weeks before his drug test, and passed. I also know someone who went to a party over a weekend and failed the following Friday... The only way to find out is - to take the test.

3. The company can not in advance ask for medical records (the "doctor's note"); you can offer them in response to the results of your test, and hope for the best.

4. The hiring company absolutely can not tell your ex-boss that you failed your drug test - that is against the law. I'm not saying they won't bring it up in casual conversation at a BBQ... but it's not kosher, and you'd have recourse if it ends up affecting you negatively.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 2:06 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW, someone I know just got fired for failing a drug test that occurred almost exactly 30 days after he last (supposedly) smoked pot. He (purportedly) doesn't smoke regularly, but was on vacation and had not even been interviewed for the job at the time. They really liked him, he was doing very well, they'd invested quite a bit of training in him, but there's zero tolerance for failing that drug test. Read what you like about fooling the test, but I wouldn't count on cranberry juice to do it. (And keep in mind that while I believe what the guy I know said, but I have no direct knowledge of his usage habits, only what he says.)

I guess what I'm saying is that if you know you are going to fail, there's no point in even taking the test. Still go to the interview. Maybe you can arrange to take the test at a later date when you've had longer to dry out.
posted by maryr at 5:55 PM on May 30, 2011

So the *interview* is later this week. Usually employment is contingent on taking a drug test. In the mean time, before they get to test you, they have to offer the job to you and you accept it (take your time!), put in two weeks at the old job and THEN you start the new job and are tested. So. Don't panic. You probably still have at least 3 weeks until your drug test. I've NEVER been tested at an *interview*. I would imagine it would be unbelievably costly to employers to test all candidates. They usually test only the ones in the very last stages of coming aboard.
posted by hecho de la basura at 6:11 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

This could be murky ethically speaking, but Quick Fix can be used quite successfully. I am NOT saying I have done this...repeatedly, but I AM saying in a business test situation you are unlikely to be followed into the bathroom itself. A lack of supervision provides many opportunities and as many others have previously mentioned most business-like drug tests are cheapo one shot pieces of crap. Furthermore, the test is likely more of a threat than a promise.

good luck.
posted by aretesophist at 6:15 PM on May 30, 2011

Just out of curiosity--you mention you are in the Pacific Northwest...is it legal for medicinal purposes there? If so, would you be able to get a prescription and then be able to submit a "doctors note" when you fail?

IANAL but if you have a legal reason to be using that, they shouldn't be able to do anything about it.
posted by Elminster24 at 8:19 PM on May 30, 2011

2) Take the test. From what I understand it's much more expensive to test for pot, so most tests do not include it.

I would consider this bad advice. I worked in a drug screening lab seven years ago. The vast majority of test panels include cannabinoids, including the standard 5-panel that 90% of our clients used. Based on your usage habits you probably would fail the test as far as 4-6 weeks out (but I quote these figures from the memo on my old desk, and I am not a medical professional).

If I were you, I would refuse to take the test (politely) and decline employment on principle if required, without burning bridges.
posted by zvs at 9:08 PM on May 30, 2011

You don't mention whether the Big Scary Drug Testing Policy says anything about random checks. Most places that take the step of checking everyone they hire would seem likely to leave open the opportunity for random checks. (Heck, most places that don't bother to do it on hiring even give themselves the option of testing you later "randomly.")

Look into that. Because honestly, if you've been a daily smoker for 6 years and aren't planning to quit or drastically change your smoking habits - this isn't the place for you to be working. Anti-drug workplace policies are designed to keep you out, or get rid of you, or ensure that in the event of a problem you have little or no protection. That's a really bad foot to start off on.
posted by jph at 9:23 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two anecdotes:

1. My agency (a non-profit) has drug-screening clearly spelled out in the application that all employees must complete, but only actually administers a drug-screening for people being paid by a grant that requires it.

2. A friend applying for an accounting position and was told there would be a drug-screen as condition of employment. He was also a pretty regular pot smoker. He did the drink lots of water, stopped using, etc, as soon as he applied. He aced the interview, was hired, worked there for two weeks - no drug screen. He decided all was well, smoked that weekend. Monday of the third week he was told, "Oh yeah, we need to get that drug screening done." Failed the screening and was fired.
posted by hworth at 6:35 AM on May 31, 2011

As to requiring prescription proof for the "crazy meds," I suspect that just means for drugs that may show up on a screen, like opiates (which many people take legally for pain) or benzos (ditto for anxiety, etc).

Also, my experience in a mandatory drug test was that it came after the employment offer, not before an offer was made, so you probably have time (mine was quick, but I had zero risk of not passing).

Also, whoever mentioned HIPAA is confused. An employer in this context is not a covered entity for HIPAA privacy and in any case, in the privacy context, asking for health information is not prohibited (if they were a covered entity, disclosing PHI is the no-no).

As to HIPAA nondiscrimination, again, it's not the employer but the health plan that is the covered entity (i.e. a group health plan can't use health information to deny health coverage or charge more, etc). HIPAA does not extend to employers (except to the extent that the employer is acting as the plan administrator, usually in the context of a self-funded plan).

If the information that they're asking for is health related, the more likely problem they'd face would be related to the ADA.
posted by Pax at 8:37 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drinking lots of water and/or cranberry juice weeks before the test won't help you. However, drinking lots of water (not drowning, but a good healthy amount) the day before and the day of the test are your best bet. Most urine drug screens measure a concentration, not a binary result, and if you naturally dilute your urine, that will help your odds. Don't go nuts though, or your urine will be clear and they'll make you retake. Make sure to void like two times earlier in the day, and try to collect the urine mid-stream if the test allows for it. You should be fine, though. Job hiring processes can take a surprisingly long time.
posted by Asymptoot at 1:29 AM on June 1, 2011

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