Can you accidently fail drug and alcohol testing?

Are there valid reasons or excuses for failing drug and alcohol testing? Credit Tyler Nix and Jordane Mathieu (images modified).

We’ve probably all heard – and laughed – at excuses that some people have made for failing drug and alcohol testing. But can excuses sometimes be valid?

The simple answer is yes. There are ways in which you could fail drug and alcohol testing accidently. Let’s look at some of those ways in details.

Accidental ways to fail drug and alcohol testing

  • The most common way is simply because you haven’t given yourself enough time for your body to process the alcohol or drugs. For example, the myriad of people who fail alcohol testing the morning after a big night out. To be fair, this isn’t really accidental. You should always allow plenty of time between consuming alcohol or taking drugs and driving or going to work.
  • Ingesting of foods is another way to fall foul of drug and alcohol testing without being aware. For example, alcohol added to dishes such as sauces, gravies, casseroles and baked goods, as well as non-cooked dishes such trifles and mousses. Bagels and other foods that contain poppy seeds have also been known to lead to drug testing fails. Poppy seeds come from the opium poppy and while opiates are removed during processing, some residue does remain. Another common example is cookies containing cannabis.
  • Even tea can land someone in trouble. Not your standard English Breakfast, mind you. A drink called coca tea, which is popular in South America. It’s made from the leaves of the coca plant, the same plant that gives us cocaine.
  • Other drinks that you might not expect to contain alcohol, sometimes do. For example, some kombuchas, energy drinks and ‘alcohol-free’ beers and wines.
  • Mouthwash can contain alcohol and has been known to lead to alcohol testing fails. If you’re concerned, alcohol-free mouthwashes are available.
  • Medications can contain alcohol. For example, some cough syrups and cough drops.
  • Medications can also contain drugs that could cause you to fail drug testing. For example, fentanyl and oxycontin contain opiates. Generally, however, if you take medication as prescribed this is not an issue. Issues generally arise when prescribed and over-the-counter medications are misused.
  • If you’re in a room where someone is using drugs, you may fail drug testing without taking drugs. It should be said that this is unlikely and only occurs in extreme situations.
  • What is more likely is to fail drug testing after being in a room where ‘backyard’ drugs are being manufactured.
  • Another simple way of failing drug testing accidently is by ingesting foods with drugs in them, without your knowledge.

Workplace lessons

If you manage or own a workplace where safety is important and you have a drugs and alcohol policy, there are lessons to be learned from this information:

  • Never use cheap and unreliable equipment or kits to conduct your drug and alcohol testing.
  • Always get confirmation tests analysed by an independent laboratory.
  • If someone provides a positive drug and alcohol test and they provide an excuse, don’t dismiss it straight away. While it’s highly unlikely the excuse is valid, it may be.
  • Wait until the confirmation testing before making any decisions on consequences.
  • Most importantly, if someone provides a positive drug and alcohol test, make sure they are safe by removing them from the workplace. This is simply for safety purposes and doesn’t indicate blame.


Are there valid reasons or excuses for failing drug and alcohol testing? Credit Tyler Nix and Jordane Mathieu (images modified).

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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