How Can This Drug Test Be Positive?
February 3, 2016 6:20 AM   Subscribe

My husband is up for a job that drug tests. He works at a mental health clinic and has access to drug tests and took one just to see. It came back positive, which doesn't seem possible. Is it possible?

Husband is not a pot smoker. He smoked what equals about 2 hits off of a pipe last August. Since then he has been in a room with second hand pot smoke about three times, as recently as about a month ago. He is up for a job that tests. He took two tests at home last night (the ones they use at his clinic) and they both came back positive.

We are kind of freaking out. He's not a user. He'll be crushed if he loses this job because of this. But it doesn't seem to make sense. He's super healthy, drinks more water than any person I know, is only slightly overweight (I know it's stored in fat cells). Everything we've read online suggests there is no way he would test positive, but there it is.

He has at least a week before they would want to test him, possibly longer. I'm telling him to work out like a fiend and try and sweat it out, continue to drink water. Test again in a couple of days.

Anyone have any experience like this? How can he be testing positive for THC? Could the test kit itself be old and faulty? But if so, why is the only thing showing positive the only drug he's ingested in the last year?

He took the test fully expecting to be negative and only did it on a whim just to ease his mind, and it has done the exact opposite.

Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
May be helpful.
posted by theraflu at 6:32 AM on February 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Without knowing what test it is and how it works ... Is it possible he's drinking too much water and his urine is so dilute that the test reads that as a positive? That's apparently a thing according to the google machine.

People think that by consuming an excessive amount of water they can flush their system out. Though this is a red flag for us, and the industry has term we use on our paperwork for this called, “diluted”. Diluted means that your urine was not yellow enough and that levels of natural chemicals that are found in urine are to low. What does a diluted mean? That means a MRO (Medical Review Officer) will call you up and tell you your urine sample was diluted and you have to retake the test. They will also tell you to stop consuming water at 10:00pm the night before the test. If you have a second “diluted” your employer usually will terminate you.
posted by bowmaniac at 6:32 AM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


How about B2 supplements? Or snacks containing hemp seeds? Both can lead to false positives.
posted by pipeski at 6:34 AM on February 3, 2016


He took the test fully expecting to be negative and only did it on a whim just to ease his mind, and it has done the exact opposite.

I'm not sure I believe this claim, or his use history as you know it. If he had no reason to worry, I doubt he would have taken the test. This is only important because the question you need to address is not "how could this thing be wrong," but, "what do we need to do to get a negative result."

Erowid has some information on THC (and other) testing.
posted by OmieWise at 6:42 AM on February 3, 2016 [36 favorites]


Husband is not a pot smoker.

Except apparently when he is, and that's just the amount he admits to using. Neither here nor there though. My understanding is that false-positives for pot are rarer than many other drugs (I dinged positive for meth once due to a ranitidine prescription). I'm with OmieWise; I don't see any real reason he would have taken the test "just to see" unless he was already worried about a positive result.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:54 AM on February 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


This might be a stupid question but is your husband positive he's conducting and interpreting the test correctly? I'm guessing this is one of the "stick a test strip in urine sample, wait a few minutes" type of drug tests? The directions can be counterintuitive if you don't read them carefully, and dipping the strip incorrectly can mess up the result.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:57 AM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Isn't hair more accurate? That can be tested too, which may be an option if the tests dont agree with his experience.

And uh, smoking pot last August doesn't make someone a pot smoker.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:58 AM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I also don't believe the basis for the question. You don't buy two tests if you haven't smoked pot recently.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:06 AM on February 3, 2016 [21 favorites]


1. Your husband is probably lying to you.

2. If he does fail the actual test he may still be able to contest the results. If he fails the actual test a week from now, he is nearly certainly lying to you.
posted by TheCavorter at 7:28 AM on February 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


the question of if he is or isn't a pot smoker doesn't really matter for the results you want. buy dehydrated (real, not synthetic) urine online and be assured that it'll come back clean.
posted by nadawi at 7:29 AM on February 3, 2016


Here's one study that shows it's going to be really unlikely that someone fails a drug test due to second-hand smoke unless they are deliberately "hot-boxing," in which case they are probably also getting high. Also note that the non-smokers in that study only had detectable levels of THC for up to 22 hours after the test.
posted by muddgirl at 7:30 AM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


This might be a stupid question but is your husband positive he's conducting and interpreting the test correctly? I'm guessing this is one of the "stick a test strip in urine sample, wait a few minutes" type of drug tests? The directions can be counterintuitive if you don't read them carefully, and dipping the strip incorrectly can mess up the result.

This was my initial reaction, too, because all urine drug screens I have seen are negative if a line does show up -- which is rather counterintuitive. However, OP states: "why is the only thing showing positive the only drug he's ingested in the last year?", so I think that OP's husband is using a "multi-panel" drug screen, and only THC, of the many drugs being screened, is looking positive -- so the general interpretation of the results seems to be understood.

My only consolation from the "interpretation" aspect is to be quite sure that there is really not a line before interpreting as positive. Like, shine a spotlight on the test, and look for a trace of a line. From the package insert of one urine drug screen I have laying around in my office: "The shade of the colored lines in the Test region may vary. The result should be considered negative whenever there is even a faint line."
posted by mean square error at 7:46 AM on February 3, 2016


If you don't imbibe either, have him bring one home for you to take. See what happens.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:19 AM on February 3, 2016 [26 favorites]


For all of those immediately jumping on the 'your husband is lying to you' train that's not necessarily true. Whenever I've known I had to take a drug test in advance I've taken one, just to make sure, and I don't do drugs of any sort ever. It's an anxiety thing.
posted by Marinara at 8:21 AM on February 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


Some companies who drug test give pot the pass., especially if it's in low quantities.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:23 AM on February 3, 2016


Go buy one from Dollar Tree, in case freshness is the issue. If he really isn't a recent (within the last month) pot smoker, it's likely he will pass a lab urinalysis. They are required to GC/MS any positive results.

When the machine reports that the THC metabolite concentration is below the cutoff, they will report a negative, even though the initial screen came back positive.

If it isn't an observed test and he has smoked more recently, substitute with either the dehydrated urine or use a known-clean (same biological gender) donor's actual urine, preferably under a day old. In either of those cases, he needs to practice keeping the sample at the proper temperature in the container he will use. (The travel size empty squeeze bottles sold in drug stores work well)
posted by wierdo at 8:39 AM on February 3, 2016


I'm telling him to work out like a fiend and try and sweat it out, continue to drink water. Test again in a couple of days.

If he does in fact have THC still in his fat cells, conventional wisdom says NOT to do hard exercise for the few days leading up to the test - this will release more of it into his bloodstream. He should also pee at least once before the test, on the day.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:07 AM on February 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


You're getting some terrible, terrible feedback here.

I'm a toxicologist. Urine tests, especially commercial off-the-shelf ones, are very shitty and have a tendency toward false positives (as opposed to high-power techniques like liquid chromatography / mass spectrometry). For non-marijuana drugs, this is a huge problem (e.g. "[t]he false positive rate for amphetamine/methamphetamine was ∼14%, ∼34% for opiates (excluding oxycodone), 25% for propoxyphene and 100% for phencyclidine and MDMA immunoassays" in one recent study). Even for marijuana, though, the figures are debated (the last time I worked with a field method, using spit instead of urine, the rates were about 85% for both sensitivity and specificity).

The only thing I can think to ask you is what kind / brand of test kit was this? All the ones I know about have an in-built control readout that will tell you if some of the predictable problems have arisen and the test result isn't valid (like this one). That said, those control measures don't account for everything and, yes, entire batches of test kits can be produced poorly or contaminated en masse.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:13 AM on February 3, 2016 [43 favorites]


What RuthlessBunny said. If you do not smoke pot, you need to be the control in this situation. He needs to bring home a test for you to try.

If he refuses to bring you a test, well, then you know why he tested positive.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:26 PM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have no idea what facts are actually true in this scenario, but everything you explain that your husband is telling you sounds like every addict I've ever represented, and I've represented a few hundred of them.
posted by Happydaz at 2:37 PM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Happydaz, that's because the concept of "denial" means that you can't prove your innocence— if you say you did drugs, you are obviously using way more than you said you are— if you don't say you are using drugs, you are obviously in denial and are obviously using far more than you said you are. No matter what anyone says in this scenario, they can't be a non-drug user, only a lying addict or a slightly more honest addict.

I'd go with what the toxicologist said. of course, it's always possible he's smoking more than he says he is. but shoddy test is also highly likely.
posted by Maias at 3:55 PM on February 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


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