How Antidepressants Show Up on a Drug Test

Avoiding a False Positive Result on a Drug Screen

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.

Types of Common Drug Screens

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 lab would have to do specific additional tests to look for antidepressants. The types of substances tested for on a typical employment drug screens include:

  • Amphetamines, including methamphetamine
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers)
  • Cannabinoids, including marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Darvon (propoxyphene)
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone
  • Opiates, including heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

How Antidepressants Affect Drug Screens

False positive test results can sometimes occur if a prescription drug with a similar chemical structure is broken down into some of the same components of the target drug. The screening test isn't always able to differentiate between a "good" drug like an antidepressant and a "bad" one like crystal meth.

Some antidepressants can inadvertently trigger a false positive for a controlled substance. To avoid this, advise the tester about any drugs you may be taking so that confirmatory tests can be performed to weed out any false positive.

Certain antidepressant drugs are more prone to false-positive readings. For example, Wellbutrin (bupropion), Prozac (fluoxetine), Desyrel (trazodone), and Serzone (nefazodone) can all potentially show up as amphetamines in a drug screen.

Similarly, Zoloft (sertraline) may show up as a benzodiazepine. Less commonly, antidepressants have been known to trigger false positives for LSD.

Preventing 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. In addition to informing the technician about your antidepressant use, bring along the prescription bottle and ensure that the drug is notated on your record. It is better to declare this before the test rather than after.

Due to the risk of false positives, all drug screen results should be considered presumptive until confirmed by a second independent technique, such as liquid or gas mass spectrometry.

If your drug screen is positive and a second independent test has not been done, demand that it be performed immediately, ideally with the same sample. Moreover, get a copy of both results to confirm that a different technique was used.

Protecting Your Privacy

Even if you are able to sort out any false positives from your drug screen, you may be concerned about the disclosure of your antidepressant drug use.

In most cases, any information you share with the tester won't be included on the result. The employees at the lab and your present or future supervisor will likely have no direct contact with each other. All your employer will receive is a list of positive and negative results to the requested drug screens.

Workplace harassment and discrimination for depression and other mental health conditions are prohibited under the Americans With Disabilities Act , but you may have valid concerns about your rights being upheld.

If concerned about confidentiality, ask the tester for a copy of the company's protected health information (PHI), outlining their legal duties and privacy practices as directed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

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 is fully 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.

Preparing for the Test

First and most importantly, do not stop taking your medications or reducing the dosage unless you are doing so under the guidance of your physician. This is true even if you are concerned about false positives.

Even short-term interruptions can have serious consequences for the treatment of your condition, not least of which is antidepressant discontinuation syndrome (ADS). Discuss any concerns you have with your mental health provider so you can take the drug screen safely and without stress.

It is also important to remember that antidepressants aren't the only drugs that can trigger a false positive drug screen. Others include:

  • Advil (ibuprofen)
  • Aleve (naproxen)
  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
  • Cardizem (diltiazem)
  • Dextromethorphan (found in Robitussin)
  • Glucophage (metformin)
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)
  • Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)
  • Trandate (labetalol)
  • Ultram (tramadol)

A Word From Verywell

Facing a drug screen can make anyone anxious, especially when it is required for a job. You are not alone if you feel this way.

However, try not to stress unduly about taking a drug screen. Remember that false positives do happen and that most drug screening companies understand this. Simply divulge your prescriptions so that false positives can be avoided and your rights can be preserved.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/resources/drug-testing

  2. Casey ER, Scott MG, Tang S, Mullins ME. Frequency of false positive amphetamine screens due to bupropion using the Syva EMIT II immunoassay. J Med Toxicol. 2011;7(2):105-8. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13181-010-0131-5

  3. https://www.ada.gov/olmstead/olmstead_about.htm

  4. Warner CH, Bobo W, Warner C, Reid S, Rachal J. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(3):449-56. PMID: 16913164

Additional Reading