How Antidepressants Show Up on a Drug Test

Avoiding a False Positive Result on a Drug Screen

Physician holding a sterile urine sample container

Kirby Hamilton / Getty Images

If are taking a prescription antidepressant medication like Prozac (fluoxetine), 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.

Never stop taking your antidepressant without talking to your doctor first. If you are concerned about false positives on drug screenings, inform the technician about any medications you are taking, including antidepressants, other prescription medications, or over-the-counter medications.

Learn the actions you can take to ensure your drug test results are interpreted accurately and your rights are protected.

Common Drug Screens

Antidepressants do not show up as antidepressants on standard drug tests. The lab would have to do specific additional tests to look 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, including methamphetamine
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers)
  • Cannabinoids, including marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Darvon (propoxyphene)
  • Opiates, including heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Sometimes, however, an antidepressant will trigger a false positive on a drug test, showing up on the test as an amphetamine or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

Impact of Antidepressants on Drug Tests

False positive test results can sometimes occur if a prescription drug or its metabolite has a similar chemical structure to the target drug being tested for.

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

Certain antidepressant drugs are more prone to false-positive readings. For example:

  • Wellbutrin (bupropion), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Desyrel (trazodone) can all potentially show up as amphetamines on a drug screen.
  • Zoloft (sertraline) may show up as a benzodiazepine. Less commonly, antidepressants have been known to trigger false positives for LSD.
  • Case reports also suggest that the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) Effexor (venlafaxine) and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) may lead to a false positive for phencyclidine (PCP).

Preventing False Positives

If you are concerned that your antidepressant might show up as a false positive for another drug in a drug test, your best course of action is to be proactive.

Inform the Technician

In addition to informing the technician about the antidepressant your take, 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.

Request a Second Test If Necessary

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

If your drug screen is positive and a second confirmation 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.

Talk to Your Doctor About Other Medications

If possible, you may want to talk to your doctor about trying a different type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that won't produce a false positive. For instance:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine) or Zoloft (sertraline) may produce a false-positive result, whereas Paxil (paroxetine), Celexa (citalopram), and Lexapro (escitalopram) do not.
  • If you're using an antidepressant to treat neuropathic pain, you may want to avoid taking Effexor XR (venlafaxine) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), which are types of antidepressants that may be more likely to produce a false positive. Instead, you may ask your doctor about Cymbalta (duloxetine), which has a very low risk of producing a false positive on a drug test.
  • If you are using an antidepressant as a sleep aid, avoid using Desyrel (trazodone) if possible. Remeron (mirtazapine) or sedative-hypnotics are alternatives that have less of a chance of producing a false positive on a drug test.

Of course, if a specific medication is working well for your depression—and you and your doctor agree it's best not to change courses—be sure to show any and all medications to the lab technician conducting your drug screening.

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 you're concerned about confidentiality, ask the tester for a copy of the company's protected health information (PHI) documentation, outlining their legal duties and privacy practices as directed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (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 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 your condition in the workplace, even with the legal protections in place.

Preparing for the Test

First and most importantly, don't 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 in medication 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)

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does Prozac show up on a drug test?

    Prozac (fluoxetine) could show up as an amphetamine or as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on a drug test and produce a false positive for one of these illicit drugs. However, Prozac doesn't show up as Prozac—or as an antidepressant—on a drug test because these tests normally don't screen for antidepressant use.

  • Does Lexapro show up on a drug test?

    Lexapro (escitalopram) doesn't show up on a drug test because drug tests normally don't screen for antidepressant use. And, unlike other SSRIs, Lexapro does not produce a false positive for any other type of drug.

  • Does Zoloft show up on a drug test?

    Zoloft (sertraline) could show up as a false positive on a drug test as a benzodiazepine or LSD. However, Zoloft wouldn't show up as Zoloft—or as an antidepressant—on a test, because people are usually not screened for antidepressant use during a standard drug test.

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. 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. doi:10.1007/s13181-010-0131-5

  3. Masternak S, Padała O, Karakuła-Juchnowicz H. False-positive drug test results in patients taking psychotropic drugs. A literature review. Fałszywie dodatnie wyniki testów narkotykowych u pacjentów przyjmujących leki psychotropowe – przegląd literatury. Psychiatr Pol. 2021;55(2):435-446. doi:10.12740/PP/113173

  4. Baron JM, Griggs DA, Nixon AL, Long WH, Flood JG. The trazodone metabolite meta-chlorophenylpiperazine can cause false-positive urine amphetamine immunoassay resultsJ Anal Toxicol. 2011;35(6):364-368. doi:10.1093/anatox/35.6.364

  5. Saitman A, Park HD, Fitzgerald RL. False-positive interferences of common urine drug screen immunoassays: a review. Journal of Analytical Toxicology. 2014;38(7):387-396. doi:10.1093/jat/bku075

  6. Landy GL, Kripalani M. False positive phencyclidine result on urine drug testing: A little known causeBJPsych Bull. 2015;39(1):50. doi:10.1192/pb.39.1.50

  7. Ball, Jennifer PharmD. Urine drug screening: Minimizing false-positives and false-negatives to optimize patient care.US Pharm. 2016;41(8):26-30.

  8. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Depression, PTSD, & other mental health conditions in the workplace: Your legal rights.

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

  10. Algren DA, Christian MR. Buyer beware: Pitfalls in toxicology laboratory testingMo Med. 2015;112(3):206-210.

Additional Reading

By Nancy Schimelpfening
Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.