Prescription and Drug Test

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Hello, I have a question regarding drug testing procedure. I am being required to take a 10-panel urine drug test as part of matriculation in graduate school. I am currently taking a prescription drug that is tested for and will cause a positive result (methadone). I understand that an MRO will contact me once I test positive to obtain my prescription. My question is, at that point will the result be reported as negative and will it be indistinguishable from someone who is not taking any prescription drugs? For my privacy, I would prefer that the school not know that I take this medicine. They are contracting with a large company for the drug screen and the MRO is employed by that company and isn't associated with the school. Can someone with first-hand knowledge help set my mind at ease? I have been stable for years now on this medication. I realize some people have strong negative feelings about it (hence my concern) but for me it has been a lifesaver. Thank you

celticgreenman's picture
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Joined: Nov 10 2010
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Need to know


Unfortunately, there is no one set answer for this question. It depends upon what the drug test is being done for and what the contract is with you. You should have been provided the information as to why the test is being done, what the ramifications are for a positive, if any prescription controlled medications are allowed, and who has access to the information.

If you do not agree with any of the contract, you might try contacting the administration of the school. But, since this is a voluntary contract, basically, if you do not agree with anything, you don't have to go to that school.

Some institutions will allow certain controlled medications as long as the patient has a valid prescription and is stable. But, there are some situations where medications which might cause mental status changes are just not allowed at all, prescription or otherwise, period (like fighter jet pilots).  In some situations, the person applying for the position has to fill out a questionaire, which has the usual questions, such as:  Do you have any physical or mental conditions that would prevent you from participating in the program to the fullest?  Do you take any prescription medication and what is it prescribed for?  Have you ever been convicted of a felony?  Do you have to register with the sexual offender registry?  and any other questions that are specific to the situation (such as in the medical fields, Have you ever been sued for malpractice?  Have you ever lost your license or DEA number? ;  in the law enforcement fields, Have you ever been denied a permit to carry a weapon?  and the like.)

So, even though the ADA (American's with Disabilities Act) covers most situations where a person has to take a controlled medication, again, there are some specific situations where the person is just not allowed to take any mind altering substances (prescription or otherwise).  And, this can include medications which are not controlled, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, antiemetics (reduce nausea/vomiting), muscle relaxants, etc. 

So, again, this is a voluntary thing, you do not have to go to this particular school.  Find out what information you desire from the facility, preferably before you take the test.

Institutions are not allowed to violate the privacy parts of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), where a patient's medical information is only on a "need to know" basis.  But, that need to know can change from situation to situation.

In the military, the MRO (Medical Record Review Officer, who is usually a physician) is charged with looking at the patient's records to see if there is a medical reason for a positive result on a drug test.  If the MRO finds a prescription, which covers the positive result, it is supposed to just go away, as if it never occurred.  The soldier's commanding officer is not supposed to be notified.  But, even in the military, where there are pretty clear cut regulations, slip ups occur.

Sorry that I cannot tell you more precise information, but it really depends upon the facility and situation.  Contact the adminstration of the company that is doing the testing.  Try to speak with the highest person that you can, and do not give out specifics to any of the receptionists, secretaries, assistants, etc.  Again, you should be provided the "informed consent" type of information.  If this does not provide the information you want, ask.

Again, if the drug testing is just being done to find candidates who are abusing drugs, then usually a positive for a prescription medication is not reported.  It just goes away, as if there was no positive result.  But, if the testing is being done to pick up any candidate that is taking any substance (prescription or otherwise) that might cause alteration in the mental status, for whatever reason (maybe the student will have to be working around dangerous machinary or sensitive information, whatever), then the school might be notified of all postive results, with an explaination for those who have prescriptions.

Good luck.  Hope you do well in your future endeavors.