What Happens If You Fail A Drug Test?

what happens if you fail a drug test

Drug testing has become a routine practice these days. Institutions from employers to schools, courts to volunteer programs often require a drug test as a requisite for participation. So, what happens if you fail a drug test?

Failing a drug test can have serious repercussions. Some may attempt to outsmart the drug-testing protocol, but with random testing more common now, that strategy doesn’t always work. Keep reading to learn about drug testing and what happens if you fail a drug test.


failing a drug test

Types of Drug Testing

There are various methods an employer might use to test a person for drug use. Here are the most common types of drug tests:

  • Urine testing. Urine tests are by far the most common form of drug screening tests. A urine test can detect drugs in the system from a few days to weeks. How long prior to the urine test depends on the frequency of drug use and the type of drug.
  • Saliva testing. A saliva, or mouth swab, test is used to detect very recent drug use. These tests are only able to pick up the substance within a few hours of drug use.
  • Blood testing. Blood tests for drug testing involve a more invasive process, as it requires drawing blood. The blood test is called the enzyme-multiplied immunoassay test and is able to pick up a range of substances.
  • Hair testing. Where urinalysis detects drug use for only the previous few days or weeks, hair screening can detect a wide range of drugs used over a 3-month period. Hair screenings are more sensitive than other methods, so they can reveal a person’s historical drug use.

4 Reasons for Drug Testing

There are many reasons why employers or government or academic entities might use drug testing. Here are some of them:

  1. Employment. People applying for jobs are very often required to submit to a drug test. Employers seek to eliminate drug users from their payrolls for several reasons, but mostly to protect other employees from being exposed to a person who might be on illicit drugs.
  2. Athletics. Professional athletes of all ages, as well as high school athletes, are often required to undergo random drug testing. Making sure an athletic team is drug-free ensures that each team member is dedicated to the success of the team.
  3. Legal. The person may be on probation, with random drug testing required as a condition to remain free of custody. When someone on probation tests positive they are returned to jail or to a treatment program.
  4. Sober living. The purpose of sober living is to maintain a substance-free environment. Therefore, sober living homes require regular drug testing of the residents.

What Happens if You Fail a Drug Test?

Substances can remain in your system for hours to weeks, depending on the substance and level of consumption.

Alcohol clears the fastest, usually within 6-24 hours. Other drugs, like heroin, cocaine, and opiates can stay present for up to seven days, and marijuana for up to thirty. Marijuana might be legal in some states, but if the employer has a no-marijuana policy it can still trigger termination.

So, what happens if you fail a drug test? There are many adverse repercussions for someone who fails a drug-screening test. These include:

  • Being denied a job position. It can cost you a job opportunity. Employers today are highly aware of the overall cost to their business if they offer a job to someone using drugs.
  • Being terminated from your job. If you are employed and test positive during a random drug-testing program, you may lose your job. Employers have that right based on the agreement signed by the employee, but most will give them another chance.
  • Being kicked off a sports team. When athletes are found with drugs or steroids in their system they are usually suspended for a certain time period. Some may be referred to a treatment program. High school athletes may be kicked off a team due to drug-related offense or a failed drug test.
  • Being kicked out of sober living. When people choose sober living, they expect the home to be free of substances. This is why the condition of living there is supported by random drug tests. Those who test positive will be asked to move out.
  • Being sent back to jail. Drug testing in probation is a common court-ordered procedure. County and federal drug courts across the country make positive drug tests a condition for continued probation.
  • Loss of benefits. Some states have firm policies in place to deny benefits to those who fail their drug test. This can include unemployment, disability, or worker’s comp benefits. These policies vary by state.
  • Being suspended from school. Public high schools may have a random drug testing program. If a student fails a test, he or she receives a suspension. Sometimes the student will be required to perform community service or receive drug counseling.
  •  Public high schools may have a random drug testing program. If a student fails a test he or she receives a suspension. Sometimes the student will be required to perform community service or receive drug counseling.

False Positives and How to Handle Them

Occasionally, individuals might receive a false positive result on a drug test. This can happen due to certain medications, foods, or other factors. If you believe you’ve received a false positive, it’s crucial to communicate this to the testing entity and request a retest or a different testing method. It’s also a good idea to keep a list of medications or supplements you’re taking to provide as evidence if necessary.

Prevention: Staying Informed and Making Choices

One of the best ways to avoid the negative consequences of failing a drug test is by making informed choices. Stay educated about the substances you consume, their potential effects on your body, and how long they might remain in your system. If you’re taking prescribed medications, always discuss with your doctor any potential for them to interfere with drug tests.

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Retaking a Drug Test: Is It Possible?

So, what happens if you fail a drug test—can you retest?

If you’ve received a positive result on a drug test, you might be wondering if you have the option to retake it. The ability to retake a drug test often depends on the circumstances and the policies of the testing entity. Here are some scenarios to consider if you’ve failed a drug test and suggestions for recourse:

Employment Scenarios: Some employers might offer a second chance, especially if you have a valid reason to believe the test produced a false positive. For instance, if you can provide evidence of a prescription medication that might have interfered with the results, they may allow a retest. However, not all employers have such policies, and some might move forward with employment decisions based on the initial test.

Athletic Testing: In the world of sports, testing policies can be stringent. So, what happens if you fail a drug test in the athletic scene? Some organizations might allow for a second test, especially if the first result is contested. However, consequences like suspension might still apply while the retest is pending.

Legal and Probationary Testing: In situations where drug tests are court-ordered or related to probation, the chance for a retest might be minimal. However, if there’s a valid reason to believe there was a testing error, it’s crucial to communicate this with legal counsel promptly.

How to Request a Retest: If you believe the positive result was an error, it’s essential to act quickly. Gather any evidence or information that might support your case—for example, a list of medications or supplements you’ve taken—and formally request a retest. Some testing entities keep a “split sample,” which is a portion of the original specimen that can be retested to verify the results.

It’s crucial to approach a failed drug test calmly and professionally, presenting any evidence you have and expressing your willingness to comply with any additional requirements. Remember, though, that while some organizations or scenarios might allow for a retest, it’s not a guaranteed option.

We hope these insights helped you answer the often-asked question, “What happens if you fail a drug test?” and give you direction on how to handle the matter going forward.

If You Fail the Drug Test, What Treatment Options Are There?

Those who have failed drug tests, especially multiple tests, will benefit from treatment for drug abuse or addiction. There are rehab programs that provide a wide range of services to help get you back on track. These include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • 12-Step program
  • Education
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Holistic methods

You may have been ordered to do drug screening and now wonder what happens if you fail a drug test. If you are wondering that, you may need to consider getting help for a substance problem.

Journey Hillside Provides Comprehensive Addiction Treatment

Journey Hillside is a residential treatment center that can help you overcome a drug or alcohol problem. Give us a call today at (877) 414-1024.