How Antidepressants Show up on a Drug Test

It is unlikely, but false positives can occur for some medications

Antidepressants

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If you have depression and are taking a prescription medication like Prozac, you might worry that it could show up on a drug test. This is especially a concern if you must take a pre-employment drug screen for a new job. Because antidepressants are not considered drugs of abuse, they are not included in common urine drug screens. However, there may be cross-reactions that can produce false positive results for the substances these tests are designed to detect. Learn the actions you can take to ensure your results are interpreted accurately and your rights are protected.

The Drug Lab Must Specifically Search for Antidepressants

If you are in treatment for depression, the good news is that antidepressants are not the drugs that an employer is looking for in an employment drug screen. The types of substances tested for on a typical employment drug screens include amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), barbiturates, benzodiazepines (tranquilizers), methaqualone, methadone, and Darvon (propoxyphene).

The lab would have to do additional tests to look for antidepressants. However, it is possible that your antidepressant might show up as a false positive for a controlled substance, which would certainly be a problem.

The Possibility of a False Positive on a Drug Test

A number of antidepressants can yield false positive results on drug tests. Wellbutrin (bupropion), Prozac (fluoxetine), Desyrel (trazodone), and Serzone (nefazodone) can all potentially show up as amphetamines. In addition, Zoloft (sertraline) may show up as a benzodiazepine, which is a class of tranquilizer medications. Several antidepressant drugs can show a false positive for LSD, although that is less commonly tested for in drug screen panels.

False positives happen because these prescription medications have a similar chemical structure to the target drugs or are broken down into some of the same components by the body. The screening test isn't able to differentiate the "good" drug from the "bad" one. However, labs can do more specific confirmation tests.

How to Prevent False Positives

If you are concerned that your antidepressant might show up as a false positive, your best course of action is to be proactive. Bring your prescription bottle with you to the testing so that the tester can make a notation in your record, just in case there are any questions later. If your test shows positive the lab will then do a more specific test that can differentiate between your medication and a controlled substance.

Just because you tell the drug tester that you're on prescription drugs for depression doesn't mean that this information will be relayed to your employer. The employees at the lab and your future supervisor likely have no contact with each other. The company simply contracts with a lab to screen job applicants for drugs.​

Workplace harassment and discrimination for depression and other mental health conditions in hiring, advancement, and compensation are prohibited under the Americans With Disabilities Act, but you may have valid concerns about your rights being upheld. Although awareness about mental health conditions such as depression has grown over the years, it is still common for people with depression to worry about the stigma associated with a depression diagnosis. It's understandable that you would want your depression diagnosis to be kept private, especially from a current or prospective employer. You may fear you could be discriminated against or singled out for the condition in the workplace, even with the legal protections in place.

Continue Your Medication

Do not stop taking your medications or reduce them unless you are doing so under the guidance of your physician. That can have serious consequences for the treatment of your condition, including antidepressant discontinuation syndrome for some drugs. Discuss any concerns you have with your mental health provider so you can get information specific to your treatment and relieve your fears.

A Word From Verywell

Facing a drug screen can make anyone anxious, especially when it is required for a job. You are not alone as people take many different prescription medications that can show up on the screen. The testing process allows you to divulge prescriptions so false positives can be avoided and your rights can be preserved.

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