Top 7 Excuses for Failing a Drug Screen

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[article written by Sarah Trusilo]


In an industry as dynamic as the background screening industry, something that is greatly desired and recommended is consistency.  When laws and regulations are changing all around us, we find it beneficial to preserve a sense of predictability and structure to the way in which we do things.   Audit requirements are everchanging, as are the technological systems we use to engage with our work.  Company departmental policies and procedures walk a delicate dance with governmental bureaucracies, Congressional legislation and the latest lawsuits.  One constant:  There will always be creative excuses by applicants for adverse information appearing on their background checks.   From not knowing there were drugs in their friend’s car to their getting assaulted by someone only to be the one charged with assault, we have heard the gamut.  The same goes for failing a drug screen.  Here are the top 7 excuses for failing a drug screen:



  1. The Medical Review Officer did not reach out to me for proof of prescription

When a positive result is detected by the MRO, or medical review officer, the protocol is for them to reach out to the donor to obtain proof of any possible prescriptions the donor may have.  If they do not receive a response from the donor within a certain timeframe, they will report the result as a positive.  If the donor provides proof of a valid prescription, the result would be reissued as a negative.  In some cases, the donor misses the call or does not have a working voicemail to remedy the situation in time.


  1. I am taking something, but I have a prescription

Many donors will claim to have a prescription all while failing to provide proof of one.  It is a classic confidence game.  Some donors will provide proof of prescription that the MRO rejects as not legitimate, as it was expired, falsified or not for the drug that was detected.  The MRO has to verify the prescription with the pharmacy listed or the prescribing physician.


  1. I used the pills of a friend or family member

If a friend or family member has a prescription for a narcotic and the donor has some type of pain, they may use the medication prescribed to the friend or family member.  It is not out of the question that, if the individual tests positive for a narcotic, they claim it was a prescription of a friend or family member, when it is actually an illegal substance.  They may do this in an attempt to downplay the seriousness of the result.


  1. I ate poppy seeds

For donors that test positive for opium, they channel the spirit of Elaine Benes from the episode of Seinfeld in which she tests positive for opium after consuming a poppy seed muffin.  It makes for a hilarious sitcom plot, but it also has some truth to it.  There is a slight possibility that the consumption of unwashed poppy seeds can lead to a drug screen that is opium-positive.  Unwashed poppy seeds are classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II controlled substance and they cannot legally be sold in the U.S., but even the US Department of Defense has warned service members against eating foods containing poppy seeds prior to drug screening.


  1. I ate a cookie and did not realize it had marijuana in it

The classic story involves a person minding their own business, spotting a delicious cookie just begging to be gobbled up.  Unbeknownst to them, the cookie was the funny type.  Sadly for them, they just got a call from the HR of the company they’ve applied to months ago, asking them to come in for an interview and undergo drug testing.


  1. I take CBD oil

The chemical compound CBD that is found in the cannabis plant is non-impairing.  While it is true that certain types of CBD oil have trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant, there are many manufacturers that test their products to ensure that there is no THC detected.  Nevertheless, researchers have found that CBD products that contain a small amount of THC can potentially cause a positive drug screen result.


  1. I was at a party and other people were using drugs

We have heard people caught with drugs were just “holding it for a friend”, and the excuse has been adapted to the drug screening world.  By diffusing the responsibility to others, the donor can claim innocence as a last-ditch effort to salvage the job prospect, not taking too much consideration into the fact that putting themselves in that position in the first place may not help their case terribly.  Standard drug tests have screening levels set to overcome environmental factors such as second-hand smoke.


Justifacts has heard so many different stories throughout our 40 years in business, and the majority of the excuses funnel into these top 7 picks.  Whether the positive drug screen can legitimately be explained or not, it is still interesting to have real-life coincide with science in a way that creates a picture.  Accuracy is crucial in the background screening industry, so we must trust but always verify.