I was just told by my co-teacher that today was exam training, so I don’t have to teach. A decent time to relate a recent experience that Erin and I had.
Our contract here required us to take a drug test, specifically a urine-sample based test. We were driven to the hospital last Wednesday, pissed in cups, and had blood drawn for HIV/AIDS. We weren’t concerned about passing either test.
Last Friday, a nurse came to school to get another urine sample from us. There was some problem with the previous test, but we were told not to worry. Maybe it was too diluted, I don’t know. We gave them another sample and didn’t think twice about it.
On Monday, our co-teacher pulled us aside and told us that we had failed the drug test, specifically the heroin/methadone test. She was shocked, and believed us when we said it must be a false positive.
Erin and I have both been taking a few different over-the-counter and prescription drugs. I’ve been using pepto-bismal for stomach problems, ibuprofen and acetaminophen for headaches, and diphenhydramine (benadryl, Sominex) for trouble sleeping. Erin has also been taking Sominex occasionally, and both of us had taken it Thursday night (before giving the second sample) We knew of another EPIK teacher that also failed his drug test after taking Tylenol PM (also diphenhydramine).
I decided it was time for some research. After an hour of searching medical journals, I had a few articles that mentioned false positives on the EMIT immunoassay test from diphenhydramine. I printed them out, showed them to our co-teacher, and arranged to take another test.
Our test is tomorrow (Friday) morning. I last took Sominex on Sunday night, so I should be in the clear. But needless to say, this entire escapade has been embarrassing. So here is some advice for anyone taking a drug test for employment:
- Do your homework! Find out what type of test they will be using, and study potential cross-reacting compounds (substances that could cause false-positives)
- Find out the next step after a positive test. For federal jobs in the US, the law mandates that positive EMIT tests be followed by a gas chromatography test, to rule out false-positives. This is obviously not the case in Korea, and could have caused serious problems for us. Insist on follow-up testing, if possible.
- Prepare your personal information. Make a list of everything you’ve taken in the past month. This should include prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and any vitamins or supplements. Google-search for potential cross-reacting compounds. Bring the medications and prescriptions to the test with you. Print and bring any information relating to false-positives.
- Consider speaking to an attorney. I don’t have one and can’t afford one, so this was out of the question. Thankfully, our employer is willing to work with us. This won’t be the case everywhere, and a false-positive can cause serious professional and financial damage. It never hurts to know the law.
I didn’t have a strong opinion about workplace drug testing before this, but that has changed. I grant that it is necessary in certain situations, but policy needs to be crafted carefully. The real problem is that accurate tests like gas chromatography are expensive. Businesses are much more likely to spend a few dollars on something like EMIT than a couple hundred on a GC test. More likely than not, it will be on YOU to protect yourself.
A final note, watch for faulty information. A Google-search on these topics turns up thousands of shady pages written by stoners looking to pass a test. Most of the info is either hopeful or paranoid. Look for scholarly sources.
I’ll let you know how the next test turns out.