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Nancy Schimelpfening

Can Antidepressants Show Up on a Drug Test?

By February 12, 2013

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Question: I am starting a new job soon which requires drug testing.  Can antidepressants show up on a drug test?

Answer: You didn't indicate in your question why you are concerned about this; but, if you are worried about your employer knowing that you are in treatment for depression, then you don't need to be.  A lab would have to be specifically looking for antidepressants in order to detect them.  And, since antidepressants are not considered to be drugs of abuse, there is simply no reason that your employer would be looking for them.  However, it is possible that your antidepressant might show up as a false positive for a controlled substance, which would certainly be a problem for you.

In an August 2006 report in The Journal of Family Practice, Srinivas B. Rapuri and colleagues noted that several antidepressants can yield false positive results on drug tests.  Bupropion (Wellbutrin), fluoxetine (Prozac), trazodone (Desyrel) and nefazodone can potentially show up as amphetamines.  In addition, sertraline (Zoloft) may show up as a benzodiazepine.

Drug tests are sometimes wrong, basically because they are very sensitive, detecting small amounts of chemical substances, but not very specific.  If a drug has a chemical structure that is very similar to the one being tested for, the test isn't able to differentiate the "good" drug from the "bad" one.

If you are concerned that your antidepressant might show up as a false positive, your best course of action is to be proactive.  Bring your prescription bottle with you to the testing so that the tester can make a notation in his records, just in case there are any questions later.

February 13, 2013 at 10:11 am
(1) Kenneth Spurlock says:

I’ve been a state licensed chemical dependency counselor for many years, and I’ve administered and read reports on many drug tests in that time. My experience with testing labs is that they simply don’t care if their positive result was false or true. I have seen people carry a big baggie of their medications into a lab, but I have NEVER seen this fact noted on ensuing test results. The labs make no attempt to account for a positive reading based on needed legitimate prescription medication. They just say positive or negative. It then falls to the person being tested to PROVE that it really was their medication and not something illegal that was detected, which of course is IMPOSSIBLE for the average person. A positive test means guilty until proven innocent, and usually means the person being tested is denied the job they are seeking. This is also one of the primary dangers of those states that require drug testing for financial assistance as well.

February 13, 2013 at 5:30 pm
(2) sue says:

EXACTLY – someone who just does a job doesn’t care especially these days!

February 13, 2013 at 6:49 pm
(3) Myke McCormick says:

It must be noted that the testing labs have no financial interest in detailing a possible false positive. In fact the opposite is the case. Unless the lab “Catches” a significant number of persons it’s expense is not justified.
Experience has shown that a positive will always treated a positive for a prohibited substance unless management wishes otherwise. It should also be noted that there is no independent review of findings even on a random basis. A manager with a contact in the lab need only mention the desired results & there is no way to prove these results were not the result of bias. Drug testing is treated as a highly sophisticated science when it is anything but. It is a highly subjective tool used primarily as a means of control. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that drug testing has been beneficial to anyone ever.

February 15, 2013 at 5:06 am
(4) Zelda says:

Thank you Nancy for the expanation. I am a Psychologist and clients sometimes ask the same kind of question. I am not trained to answer it and find your response helpful. It is sad though that lab results can be influenced in the way Myke mentioned. I always thought they would take pride in the fact that their methods are scientificly based and ethics are important.

June 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm
(5) Janet says:

A few of us have been having a discussion about pre-employment drug screens. I just have some questions.

1. When they do a ua I understand that they check for opiates,benzodiazapines ect. but does it show up that you have opiates in your system or does it show exactly what kind of opiate that you have taken?

2. Does it show the amt. of opiates or whatever drug is in your system or just show positive?

3. How long does it take for xanax to leave your system and not show up on a pre employment drug test?


October 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm
(6) Brian says:

I was just recently was terminated from my job after a drug screen after I was hurt at work. I know that I was not positive but the test showed positive for marijuana.I told the nurse that I was on 100 mg of sertraline a day and they recorded the wrong dosage on my discharge papers; they had that I was on 10 mg. I told my job that this was wrong and that I needed to be retested but they let me go anyway. I am furious and don’t know what to do. Any suggestions ?

December 19, 2013 at 11:20 am
(7) Michelle says:

My husband works at a power plant and they cannot take any drug that shows up on a drug test which would be a controlled substance. i’m assuming prozac is fine since his doctor prescribe it to him letting him know that he cant take any drugs that show up on drug tests. am i correct on this?

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