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I had a drug screening that showed positive for a drug I had not ingested, and I was later terminated. Where should I go from here?

Monday June 15, 2009
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Dear Nancy,

I had a drug screening that showed positive for MSO4. I had not ingested that drug but had taken Percocet and Xanax, both of which my employers were aware. The strange thing is that the Percocet and Xanax did NOT show on the drug test. At first, my company gave me a letter directing me to see an addiction specialist MD and use my accumulated time to heal. Two days after receiving that letter, I was terminated and they threatened to go to the nursing board. I did see the addiction MD, who found no evidence I am an abuser of drugs, and he suggested I hire a lawyer. At this point, I have no idea where I stand, with the board or with my employer. Where do I go from here?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Felicia,

The addictionolgist by whom you were evaluated has given you good advice. You need to hire an attorney who works with licensed healthcare providers and who knows about addictions. The evaluation you had done and the physician's opinion is a first step in fighting the allegations of controlled substance use without a prescription. The attorney with whom you consult will inform you that drug screens are not always reliable, whether they are supportive (negative) or not supportive (positive) of the particular individual. Obviously, if one has a positive test and has a legitimate prescription for that drug or drugs from a licensed healthcare provider, the end result is very different than a positive screen for a controlled substance for which the employee has no prescription. A second concern in your question is the fact that the medications for which you have a prescription did not show positive results on your test results. Does this mean the screen was not done properly or that the method used is not a standard one? Or, might it mean the specimen used for the screen was not yours? Did the laboratory that ran the test confirm the positive result by performing a second test, the confirmation of which provide a much more “air-tight” position that the specimen was properly tested and the positive result confirmed? There are additional concerns surrounding drug testing that your attorney will discuss with you. In addition, the lawyer can advise you on how to handle this “positive” result with your employer. Be certain to take your employee handbook with you when you meet with the attorney.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.