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How can I Prepare for a Drug Test at Work?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Often one of the last steps before beginning at a new job is taking a drug test. Usually one must give either a urine or blood sample that is clear of a variety of both legal and illegal drugs prior to being unconditionally hired. There is little to do to prepare to take the test, unless one happens to be using a substance not considered legal, or that might show up and cause questions to be raised about your potential value as an employee.

Some companies claim to have detoxifying medications that will allow one to pass a drug test if one is using drugs illegally. While some of these may work, one might consider instead enrolling in a substance abuse program prior to taking a test. Some illegal drugs will result in a positive test several months after last being used. If one is no longer using these drugs, participation in a substance abuse program should be discussed with a potential employer prior to taking the test, after an offer of employment has been tendered.

Often an employer will have no problem hiring an employee with a former substance abuse issue, if the employee agrees to take another drug test several months after hire. Being forthcoming about a past issue with drugs will also prepare the employer for positive results on the test. Agreeing to regular testing in the future is often motivation to stay clean and maintain a new drug free lifestyle.

Others worry about the presence of legally prescribed medications that may yield positive results. If you are taking a controlled substance for pain management or for anxiety, it is important to bring these medications and a doctor’s note with one to the test. This is one of the reasons some fear the test, because it may mean disclosing facts about one’s physical and mental health, which can be cause for illegal discrimination.

Details about one’s health should probably not be disclosed until an offer of employment has been made and the only contingency is successful passage of a drug test. At this point, most employers cannot retract an offer based on a health condition that will not impair a person’s ability to perform the required job.

However, stigmatization of certain illnesses exists. Those suffering from psychiatric conditions often feel that disclosure of these conditions may lose them potential jobs. Disclosing these conditions to the drug test employee can help eliminate this discrimination.

Some suffering from certain painful illnesses may use marijuana or cannabis products to assist with pain. Naturally these will show up on a drug test. Since in many states, marijuana can now be prescribed, a doctor’s note may be enough to put employers at rest. Also be prepared for testing the same day employment is offered. Many employers now use this method so people cannot attempt to change the results by waiting a few days.

For those who do not use illegal or prescribed substances, one should prepare for a drug test by not drinking alcohol the night before. Excess alcohol can show up in both urine and blood a day after use. One cannot pass such a test when high alcohol levels remain in the blood.

Additional preparation would include adhering closely to any test instructions, including whether or not to fast. Usually drug tests can be taken at any time, and the employer almost always pays for such testing, so no money is expected from you. Be prepared to have someone watch you urinate for the test. If the test is in the morning, do not urinate prior to leaving the house, as you may not provide an adequate urine sample otherwise. If you cannot wait, drink a glass of water prior to leaving the house, as this will give one time to make more urine for the test.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Georgesplane — On Oct 07, 2010

@ Cougars- I own a business and I do not drug test my employees. They are all adults and they can make their own decisions. I do have a policy however, that I can drug test them at random, but this is only reserved for cases of negligence where I feel that drug abuse may be a cause. In these cases, I will ask my employees to submit to a hair and urine analysis.

The hair analysis is better at catching those who know how to beat a urinalysis, but they do have the potential for false positives from things like second hand contact, etc. Hair drug tests are also not adequate at detecting recent drug use, because it checks for metabolites back three months. If the urinalysis comes up positive as well, then I can be sure that drug use has been both short-term and long-term.

By cougars — On Oct 07, 2010

If you understand how drug tests work, then you can figure out a way to beat them. Most tests that are administered are the pH strip testers, which look at the acidity of urine, the metabolites present, and the presence of normal compounds that would be present in urine, but not other substances. Flushing is the best remedy if you feel that you will fail a test or you don't want an employer prying into your medical history. Although I would recommend honesty and abstinence as the best way to prepare for a drug test, you could use a drug test flush kit, and check yourself before you go with a personal drug test kit.

Flush kits work by diluting your metabolite levels below detectable levels and adding masking agents to replenish the proteins lost by diluting your urine. Test kits are not fool proof, and often must be used within one to three hours before the test.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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