A word about drug testing

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:

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.


7 Responses to “A word about drug testing”

  1. Josh Maxwell on September 10th, 2008 8:31 pm

    Great Blog post. I am going to bookmark and read more often. I love the Blog template


  2. Lois on September 11th, 2008 6:51 pm

    Evening Mike (here anyway). Who would have thought something we use so easily could cause problems for you. Good luck today!


  3. Clay on September 11th, 2008 7:01 pm

    That’s crazy…good advice though. I remember my high school was throwing around the idea of drug testing everyone involved in basically anything, but then figured out that yeah, it’d be crazy expensive.

    And because I miss discussing crazy things found online:
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3159/2807838577_83cbed0126_o.jpg?t=1053139 (kinda NSFW at the bottom)


  4. mike.sapak on September 11th, 2008 7:40 pm

    @Lois: I know, what a mess! We’ll have the new results by 4:30pm today.

    @Clay: I guess mass drug testing sounds good on paper, but the logistics are a nightmare. Especially when anybody taking Benadryl or Sudafed shows up as a smack/speed user.

    For my less-geeky readers, NSFW = Not Safe For Work.


  5. Sasha on September 11th, 2008 8:27 pm

    hahaha this made me giggle. but only because you didn’t get sent home. How absurd… hope you guys are having a freakin blast otherwise.. :-)


  6. mike.sapak on September 11th, 2008 8:40 pm

    @Sasha: Don’t speak too soon; we haven’t got the new results yet. Are you in Peru now?


  7. Ashley on September 17th, 2008 4:00 pm

    lol, heroine. I bet you were about shitting your pants when you heard you failed. miss you.


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