False Positives: What Over The Counter Drugs Can Set Off A False Positive Result?

by Rick Cusick

The drug test companies maintain that the reliability of their tests has improved dramatically over the last decade, but I’m not sure I believe that. After all, these are the same folks who lied about the quality of urine testing in the first place so I’m not sure why I should trust them when they say, Oh, we fixed that.. Urinalysis continues to be a limited – some might say flawed – science, and many common substances can still lead to a false positive result.

Which substances?

Let’s start with the NSAIDs – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are a category of Over-The-Counter (OTC) medicines and many NSAIDs can test positive for cannabis. Ibuprofen is a prolific triple-threat NSAID that can provide a false positive result for marijuana, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines.

Also, many OTC medications are combined with pseudoephedrine (which, as anyone who has ever watched Breaking Bad will tell you, is a synthetic amphetamine highly coveted by the criminal class to make meth). So any cold medicine combined with pseudoephedrine can come up positive for amphetamines. These  OTCs include (but are not limited to) Tylenol Sinus Severe Congestion, Theraflu Severe Cold and Flu, Sudafed 12-Hour Pressure & Pain medicine and dozens more. Celebrex, Cambia, Zipsor, Zorvolex, Motrin, Advil, Aleve…. The list goes on and on.

But which OTC medicines cause the most false positive results and how often is a closely guarded secret belonging to the corporations that conduct the tests. The overall percentage of false positive results is a corporate secret too. The drug test companies might share that proprietary information with each other, but they sure as hell don’t share it with the consumer.

Some vitamin supplements, specifically riboflavin (B2) and many herbs that contain the B vitamin, can call up a false positive because some riboflavins are formed from hempseed oil and will show up in urinalysis as THC.

And tonic water – carbonated water with a touch of bitter quinine. Also called “bitters” and “quinine water,” tonic water was the original way to deliver quinine – an antimalarial drug made from the bark of the South American cinchona tree which is structurally similar to poppies. A couple of gin and tonics on the night before your urine test could mean a false positive result for opiates the next morning.

And poppy seeds: Poppy seeds are perhaps the famous of all the false positive flags. Poppies can cause a false positive result – mostly in research labs – but occurrence in the real world is less frequent and fairly unpredictable. No one knows for sure how many poppy seed you would need to ingest before you test positive for morphine, but the answer is probably a lot more than you think.

Although poppy seeds do not contain morphine, some seeds can become coated with milky opium extracts that are whipped up during the harvesting process. Since opium is about 12 percent morphine, a smidgen of that much-maligned narcotic enters your system every time you bite into a toasted poppy seed bagel with butter. But it’s only a smidgen and probably nothing to worry about. Some seeds, however, will occasionally  absorb a more significant amount of morphine – a detectable amount – and those are the seeds that will get you in trouble.

 

It’s worth noting that all of the false positive scenarios described above involve getting caught for something you’ve put into your body that has returned to the daylight through your urine. You can fail with a false positive by taking Sudafed just as easily as you can fail with a true positive by taking THC. Substituting clean urine is the only way to ensure that nothing in your sample sets off a positive result of any kind, real or imagined. There are several quality synthetic urine products that will work that you can find here.   

Photo by Anthony Easton

 

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