Skip to Content

What Happens If You Fail a Drug Test But Have a Prescription

What happens if you fail a drug test due to a prescription or medical marijuana? What steps do you take to protect your reputation and career? I advice you read on. A lot of people have had to face the dilemma of failing a drug test even when they have not taken hard drugs for the first time in their lives. Yes, people have lost jobs because they were on a medical prescription that somehow reflected positive on a drug test.

Why Employers Carry Out Drug Test on Employees?

Employers may fear that a worker’s abilities will be impaired by prescription drug use, or, in the extreme, that prescription drug use could make them a danger to themselves or others. The opioid crisis has demonstrated how quickly people can become addicted to the habit-forming substances. This gives employers greater cause for concern as prescription drug misuse continues to be a very real issue.

For this reason, employees in the workplace and individuals seeking employment may be required to complete a drug test. Depending on the reason for testing, the drug test may be unannounced in scenarios such as random drug testing or post-accident drug testing.

An Important Step to Take Before the Drug Test If You Have a Prescription

Sometimes an individual subject to a drug test may be taking a prescribed substance, which will cause their drug test specimen to yield a presumptive-positive result. In these cases, the use of a Medical Review Officer (MRO) can help an employer consider all possible explanations for a positive drug test result.

Prescription medications are used to treat a broad range of ailments. In the scenario of the patient who has had teeth extracted, medications can come via the recommendation of a licensed healthcare practitioner. Using MRO services can help employers add a layer of accountability and due process to their drug-free workplace programs.

Building a robust drug testing program also ensures that all employees are treated fairly. Drug testing aims to filter out drug users and curb the negative impacts of drug use, which can include greater absenteeism, increased risk for injury and accidents, and lower productivity.

There are a few types of private employers that are required to drug test. Among them are certain transportation industries subject to the control of the federal Department of Transportation. These employers must test at least some of their employees to ensure public safety. However, this requirement generally extends only to those employees who could do significant damage if working while impaired, that is, the drivers themselves.

Assuming your employer is not required to test its non-driving employees for drugs, it could still be allowed to do so by state law. Virtually every state allows employers to test applicants for drug use at the time of hire.

With a lot of people failing drug tests without actually being users, you may have wondered at one time or the other what will happen to you if you happen to fail a drug test while on prescription drugs. We would attempt to answer that question here.

What Happens If You Fail a Drug Test But Have a Prescription?

A Medical Review Officer (MRO) is a licensed physician responsible for receiving and reviewing laboratory results and evaluating potential medical explanations for drug test results. They are a neutral, independent, third-party entity that looks at the integrity of the testing process and surrounding circumstances and advocates for accuracy of the results.

They typically get involved when a drug test result is:

  • Confirmed positive
  • Adulterated
  • Substituted
  • Invalid
  • And in some cases when a result screens negative

Your rights if you failed a drug test while on prescription drugs depend on your state’s drug testing laws and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But the bottom line is that you will likely be protected from discipline or termination based on a positive drug test.

Even if your employer has the legal right to test, that doesn’t mean it can fire or discipline you for a positive result. The ADA protects qualified employees with disabilities: those who can perform the essential functions of their jobs, with or without reasonable accommodation. If you are taking a legally prescribed drug for a disability, then your employer may not penalize you based on that fact alone.

If the drug impaired your ability to perform your job safely, then the situation would be different. But as long as you are able to perform the essential functions of your job with or without accommodation, you are protected from discrimination based on your disability.

Typically, employees have an opportunity during the drug testing process to sit down with a medical review officer (MRO) and talk about their prescription drug use. This might happen before you are tested, after you are tested, or both.

At the earliest opportunity, explain that you are taking a drug that was prescribed by your doctor for a certain ailment. You should equally provide the name of the drug and the name of the ailment. You might want to have a copy of your prescription on hand as well.

What You Can Do If You Fail A Drug Test Due to Medical Marijuana

If you find yourself in a position where you have failed a drug test, and you are unsure what the next step should be, then keep on reading.

i. Check your state laws

In this case, the very first thing you have to do is to check your state’s laws. This is usually very important, as more often than not the answer to your question will lay in their legal guidelines. If you have failed a drug test due to medical marijuana here are some things you can do:

The first thing to note is that you will not face criminal charges for failing a drug test for medical marijuana if you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal. This is the reason why you need to be up to date on your state laws regarding this issue at all times.

ii. Contest the punishment

If you have failed a drug test at work, you have the right to contest your employer’s decision to fire you. In most states, your employer is required to provide you with a copy of your drug test results, at this time you can challenge these results by way of retest or explanation. Depending on how valuable you are to the company and your explanation, your employer may look aside.

iii. Seek out alternatives embedded in the law

For the most part, states will have laws laid out for employers to follow in the case where an employee has failed a drugs test. It is an employer’s responsibility to make themselves aware of the law for their state. As an employee, you can discuss this with your employer.

There may be additional steps employers must follow for current employees. For example, in certain states, an employer can’t fire someone for the first failed drug test if the employee agrees to complete a rehabilitation program. In some states, there are very strict time frames in place by which an employer must declare a positive test result to you, the employee.

So, if you have failed your drug test, ensure you check that your employer has followed the correct timeframe. You can contest the results if they have not followed their duties correctly and exceeded notifying you during the general timeframe.

iv. Seek Employment Protection

Some state laws provide employment protections, meaning that if you live in states such as Rhode Island or Massachusetts, your employer is unable to dismiss you purely based on your use of medical marijuana!

Things to note;

  • Simply testing positive for these drugs shouldn’t be the basis for losing a job offer.
  • If such a drug appears in a test, an applicant should have the chance to show that he or she has a valid prescription for it.
  • If the prospective employer is truly concerned about the issue, the applicant may be asked for documentation from a treating physician, confirming that the person can perform the offered job with or without reasonable accommodation.
  • If the employee is hired and then starts abusing the medication, or if its side effects impair work performance or endanger the worker or others, the employer can ask for another medical evaluation.