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What if My Drug Test Results Come Back Positive?

drug test results come back positive

So you were given a drug test a recently and when the results came back your were positive for one or more drugs. You may have suspected they would, or in rare cases it’s a total surprise. What should you expect and what should you do when your drug test results come back positive?

Don’t Freak Out When Your Drug Test Results Come Back Positive

A positive drug test is not the end of the world. The first thing to do is settle your mind. You don’t need additional stress and worrying will have no effect on the outcome.

Consequences are hardly ever as severe as people think but people have done many things they regret immediately after receiving bad news. The worst thing you can do is continue using drugs.

What are the consequences of Failing a Drug Test?

Depending on what your drug test was for consequences can range from nothing to prison time. In the vast majority of cases people overestimate the consequences of failing a drug test, and in other cases they are extremely positive about the outcome.

Unless someone has firsthand experience or knows someone that has been through the exact process with very similar circumstances they will rarely have a totally accurate idea of the consequences of failing a drug test. Here are some likely scenarios by case.


If you fail your probation drug test it will most likely be sent to a lab for confirmation giving you several days to worry. The consequences of a failed drug test will be different depending on your original crime, your time on probation, the drugs you failed for and your probation officer’s own discretion.

In most cases someone that has done well for a while and has their first infraction will be referred to a drug counselor and may be asked to attend rehab after an assessment. For someone that has failed multiple tests however you could have your probation revoked. People that do go to jail for a failed probation drug test often get out sooner than expected.

Pre Employment Testing

If you fail a drug test when applying for a job 99% of the time you will not be hired and that will be the end of it. Many employers have a statute about how long a failed drug test will affect hiring, so you may be able to re apply in 6 months to 1 year.

Random Drug Testing At Work

Many employers do random drug testing to comply with federal guidelines and meet insurance requirements. For small businesses the result of a positive drug test will mostly be up to the discretion of the owner and your work history and importance will likely play a big part in how it turns out.

Larger corporations almost always have a drug treatment policy where employees that have a positive drug screen are given the opportunity to attend treatment and accept terms of a more strenuous testing program to continue their employment. A violation of this program will usually result in termination.

Post Accident Drug Test

Employers are required to do a post accident drug test of all involved parties when an on the job accident occurs that causes serious injury or death. This is probably one of the most serious drug tests. You and your company could face lawsuits and even jail time for negligence or manslaughter.

If you drive a vehicle or work around dangerous equipment, consider this before taking drugs even outside of work.

Medical Patient

Healthcare facilities drug test patients for many reasons. The most common is when prescribing narcotics. These tests are to inform the doctor about any drugs you may take or addictions you may have and depending on your treatment you may get a prescription anyway. In most cases during a healthcare screening you need to show positive for any drugs you are prescribed and negative for any other drugs. Any other result is a good reason for your Doctor to withhold a prescription or even discharge you from care.

What to Do If Your Drug Test Comes Back Positive

If your drug test comes back positive the first question you need to ask yourself is why you failed the test. If you used drugs accept that it’s your fault and admit guilt; probation officers and employers are more likely to help if you are honest and they will know you’re lying when the confirmation comes back.

If you have not used drugs you should request a confirmation. Make a list of all the medications you have taken in the last month and a list of any unusual foods you may have consumed. Educate yourself about false positives on a drug test and stay confident that it will be worked out at the lab.

If someone was injured you should retain legal counsel and not answer any questions unless instructed to by your lawyer. You should get a quantitative blood screen as soon as possible to document the levels of any drugs in your system. You may be able to use this as evidence in court if your impairment was truly not the cause of the accident.

Immediately quit taking drugs. In many cases you will face suspension or other consequences until you can pass a drug test.

If you have a drug problem seek help. The longer you use drugs the harder it is to quit and there are many benefits to living a drug free life.

The consequences for trying to tamper with a drug test are usually more severe in the legal system and healthcare, and identical to failing in an employment setting. Never attempt to adulterate a test because it will negate any opportunity for leniency or forgiveness.

Dealing With Positive Drug Tests

I cannot stress enough that failing a drug test is not the end of the world and in most cases the consequences are never as dire as people expect.

For organizations and individuals giving drug tests I would like to remind you that everyone deserves respect and just because someone fails a drug test does not make them a bad person. They are likely under a lot of stress and you can really help their state of mind by being understanding. Please do not use drug testing as a tool for personal revenge.

For anyone taking a drug test I’d like to remind you that the person in charge of your test is just doing their job and following procedure. They do not want to see you fail a drug test and it causes them a lot of stress knowing that you may lose your job or suffer other consequences as part of their job.



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Which Drug Test Do Most Probation Offices Use?

Drug Test at probation office

Drug testing parolees and probationers is one of the most complex and specialized instances of drug testing. The consequences are high and the subjects are very clever when it comes to tampering. Probationer officers and parolees alike often want to know which drug test probation offices use.

Which drug tests do most probation offices use?

The 12 Panel Clia Waived drug test is by far the most common test used by probation offices across the country. A 12 panel drug test covers all of the well known illegal drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, heroin and ecstasy as well as pharmaceuticals like opiate painkillers, Xanax, valium and buprenorphine.

Users are always finding new drugs that they can take that won’t show up on a drug test, but a 12 panel drug test pretty much covers the basics for probation office use.


Neurontin 800 mg
Neurontin was recently added as a scheduled narcotic after probation officers found their clients were taking Neurontin because it wasn’t on their drug test.


Across the United States however testing varies. Probation officers choose tests based on the drug use in their area. Almost all probation offices use instant drug test dip cards or cups, but some use 5 panels and some use 12 panels.

For instance one probation office surveyed in North Carolina used 5 panel tests, but also had alcohol and benzodiazepine tests to use for probationers that used those drugs and to randomly check others. A probation office in Michigan used 12 panel tests but also used an ETG (alcohol) test.

Why 12 Panel Drug Tests?

The main reason probation offices would choose a 12 panel instant test is because it’s the most drugs you can test for in a single device and still have it CLIA waived. A CLIA waived test is important because it takes minimal instruction to use and officers do not need special training.

It is important for probation offices to use instant drug tests because they do a high volume of testing, it is much cheaper and it also allows officers to have immediate results. Positive test results will always be confirmed at a lab, and in most cases your probation officer will wait until those results come back to pursue any punishment.


12 Panel Drug Test Cup Strips shown
Probation offices can purchase Drug Test City 12 Panel Drug Test Cups for $2.70, which saves tens of thousands of dollars annually over a drug testing lab.


Drug Test Cups are preferred because the price difference is negligible and they’re much more sanitary than using dip cards.

During the last decade probation officers used 5 panel tests that would identify the use of most popular illicit drugs including heroin, marijuana cocaine and methamphetamine. As areas started to see more prescription drug abuse they started to expand to cover the most widely abused prescription medications.

In some regions it is fairly easy to get a prescription to cover this type of drug use, which slowed down agencies from adopting more comprehensive drug tests even more.

Probation Drug Testing Changes on a Regional Level

One probationer that was released from his probation in 2007 said, “I was caught in Minnesota with Oxycontin and charged with felony possession. I was offered a plea bargain that would drop the felony to a misdemeanor in exchange for 1 year on probation, they said I was the first person to ever be caught with pain pills crushed up. Once I checked in at my probation office I noticed they only used a 3 panel drug test, so I continued using prescription painkillers the entire probation”.

States like West Virginia saw an early rise in prescription drug abuse and changed their drug testing programs to reflect that. From 1999 to 2004 deaths from unintentional drug poisoning increased 68% nationwide, while West Virginia experienced the Nation’s largest increase at 550%. West Virginia probation offices were purchasing panels for Oxycodone and other prescription medications as early as 2001.

As prescription drug abuse has increased across the country so has testing for those substances. In 2020 the majority of probation offices are using 12 panel drug tests that are comprehensive, but there are still offices that focus primarily on illicit drugs that have no medical use.

The Future of Probation Drug Testing

Probation officers change with the landscape. Many are already using additional panels to test for alcohol and fentanyl, and some probation offices have started random testing for Gabapentin (Neurontin) because probationers often turn to drugs that aren’t as well known to get high without risking arrest. Other popular replacement drugs are Tramadol, Kratom and designer drugs like spice, K2, Flakka or bath salts.

Most drug tests will include fentanyl after the FDA starts issuing CLIA waivers for those panels. Most 12 panel drug tests have removed PCP and replaced it with Tricyclic Antidepressants in the past few years.

It is a constant game of cat and mouse between probation officers and probationers trying to cheat the system. The only thing for certain is that probation officers will continue to change up and surprise probationers and the only surefire way to keep from getting your probation revoked is to obey the law and practice abstinence from drug use during your sentence.

If you’re a probation officer or probationer we’d love to hear about your drug testing program and which tests you use! Contact us and let us know.





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Women Uses Her Dog’s Urine to Pass Probation Drug Test

Pineville Ky, December 31 2019

An Arjay resident, Julie Miller, was arrested on Monday December 30th for attempting to deceive a urine drug screen by substituting her pet dog’s urine for her own. Pineville KY Officer Michael Smith was called to the scene by Miller’s Parole Officer who had caught her sneaking in a sample of urine. During questioning on scene Miller admitted to Officer Smith that the urine sample was not hers, that is was in fact her dog’s urine and that she had attempted to sneak it in because she knew she would fail the drug screen for Methamphetamine and Suboxone.

Julie Miller, age 40, was arrested for tampering with physical evidence and lodged in the Bell County Detention Center.


She was later served a probation violation at the detention center by probation and parole and a short time afterward, a trafficking in controlled substance warrant by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department.

Pineville Police Department posted the press release to their Facebook page, which quickly gained momentum online.