Top Drug Testing Myths Debunked

Haley Bass

The purpose of drug testing isn’t to criminalize employees or show a lack of trust, but to maintain a safe work environment. Employees who use drugs are 3.5 times more likely than other workers to be involved in a workplace accident. But the danger is more to others than themselves. The National Safety Council found that 80% of people injured in drug-related accidents are not the drug-abusing employee, but the innocent bystanders.

To avoid these injuries, employers use drug testing for pre-employment screenings, random checks, and post-injury evaluations. When companies use drug testing, they create a safer work environment for employees. In a study with the Southern Pacific Railroad, there was a 71.2% decrease in accidents after the company began using a drug testing program.

However, some employers are concerned that drug testing isn’t completely accurate, or that drug-abusing employees will find a way to pass. Most of these are just myths, so we’re going to tell you the truth behind drug testing.

Myth Fact: Drinking a lot of water will dilute drugs in the urine.

This is true. Drinking a lot of water makes it harder to detect drugs in a urine sample, but it also throws off natural creatinine levels (the chemical waste that passes through urine). That said, this is a big red flag to drug testers. Drug testing centers have seen every trick in the book, so this attempt at a false negative isn’t going to work on them.

If drug testers notice that creatinine levels are off, they’ll run the sample through rigorous testing to make sure they have the right result. Fluids can only dilute so much, so if there are drugs in the employee’s system, they’ll be detected.

Myth: All drugs stay in your system for the same amount of time.

Not at all! There’s a lot of “it depends” with this myth. Each person is going to have a different biological and physical makeup that changes how drugs are metabolized in their system. Each drug has a unique chemical composition, and drug users will ingest them in different amounts and over varied lengths of time. This means there are a LOT of factors impacting the testing window for each drug.

It’s important to have a quick turnaround for test results to make sure that drugs are detected on time. Concentra provides employers with drug test results within 72 hours.

Myth: Urine drug tests are common because they’re cheap, not because they’re accurate.

Let’s call this one a win-win. Yes, urine drug testing is affordable and simple compared to other testing methods (including hair, blood, and saliva), but they’re also extremely accurate. Drugs remain in urine for a longer time and in higher concentrations than in saliva. While hair follicle testing has the highest window of detection, it takes a longer time to get results and won’t test for all prescription medications.

Urine drug testing can test for up to 10 drugs at a time, can detect most tampering, and provides quick results.

Myth Fact: Poppy seeds can give someone a false positive.

Yeah, you might want to avoid that poppy seed bagel before a drug test. Although the level of opium in your system from eating poppy seeds won’t normally exceed what’s tested for, there’s still a chance that you’ll get a false negative.

Poppy seeds come from the same plant as opium, but the seeds don’t contain opium – they’re just coated in the substance. Before food processing, poppy seeds are usually washed, which gets rid of most of the opium residue. You’d have to eat a lot of unwashed poppy seeds to test positively for opioids. However, sometimes they still show up in drug tests, so a second test will need to be completed if the tested person blames their poppy seed baked goods on the result.

Don’t worry too much – this isn’t as big of a problem as people think it is.

Myth: If someone eats or drinks ______, they’ll cleanse their body of the drugs.

There’s nothing you can fill that blank with to make the statement true. Although there are many websites claiming that they’ve found the secret way to pass a drug test, there is nothing that someone can put in their system to get rid of the drugs. There might be ways to create a false negative (see previous), but drug testers are trained to look for any signs of manipulation. Not doing drugs is still the best and only way to ensure a negative result.

Regardless of what employees might attempt to get a negative result, drug testing is your best bet for keeping the workplace safe. Concentra’s drug testing process is quick, convenient, and reliable. With pre-employment drug tests, you can help your employees be healthy, safe, and productive on the job.

"Four Common Myths About Drug Testing," HR Blog. March 2, 2015.