How to Face Drug Testing While on Cold Medications

Jan 25, 2016
Tagged with: How to Face Drug Testing While on Cold Medications

It’s no wonder drug testing is so commonplace these days that most people don’t think twice about taking them, believing that there is nothing to worry about. What a lot of people don’t realize, though, is that any cold medications they may be taking could actually affect a drug test.

This is true for two reasons.

Some drug tests screen for ingredients found in cold medications

You see, both prescription and over-the-counter cold medications can contain ingredients that are mind altering if you take more than the advised dosage. So these products are commonly prone to substance abuse. That is why many drug tests screen for them.

For instance, many over-the-counter cold medications contain Dextromethorphan (DXM), which is an expectorant and a cough suppressant. When consumed in larger quantities than the recommended dosage, it can cause not only euphoria, but hallucinations as well. There are also antihistamines, such as promethazine HCl, which are abused because they may act as a sedative.

Codeine cough syrup is only available by prescription, but it may still be abused for its euphoric qualities. Now, off to the next one.

Some ingredients return false positives

Believe it or not, 5% to 10% of drug tests return false positive results. For instance, when codeine enters the body, it is metabolized and converted into morphine. So drug tests may return positive results for either codeine or morphine when it is being used as a cough suppressant.

There are also cold medications which may return positive results for amphetamines. However, drugs which are often used as decongestants in cold medications do not return confirmed positive results. And here is where we need to add a little information about drug testing. Forensic drug tests, which are those used for legal purposes rather than medical ones, require confirmation of all positive results.

What this means is that some of these cold medication ingredients very well might return a positive result. That said, once these results are submitted to the second level screening that is required, the correct negative result will be returned. And when that happens, it is to be treated as the final result, as though a negative test result was obtained in the first place.

Hence taking a drug testing while being on cold medication need not be something to worry about, but it is definitely something you need to be aware of. And there is one thing that everyone should do in such situations.

Make a list

When taking a drug test, each person is given what is known as a custody and control form. This is where you should list all medications that you have been taking— both prescription and over the counter included.

Just in case any of the medications return a positive result, you may well be asked for your list along with the specimen samples. This list, in such scenarios, will serve as a reminder of why a positive result may have occurred.

Author: John Lewis



  • bobl07

    As we get closer to the Olympic and Paralympic games and with us being right in the middle of winter, this is something all athletes and employees who are drug tested need to be made aware of.