Employment Drug Screening and ADHD Medications

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Certain medications can interfere with the ability to do a job; for example, narcotics can interfere with your ability to drive or operate machinery. This type of medication, however, may not interfere with other jobs. And other medications, such as stimulant medications for ADHD, can enhance a person with ADHD's ability to do their job. Even so, more and more companies are requiring drug testing as a prerequisite for any position within the company.

Since some ADHD medications, such as Adderall, can show up in drug screenings as amphetamines, and can signal potential illicit drug use to a potential employer, some individuals with ADHD are worried about what happens when an employer requests or requires a drug screening.

Drug screening tests are made to be sensitive; they are made to detect even low levels of different medications or street drugs. Most companies choose not to test for all possible drugs, but instead choose certain medications or street drugs to screen for.

Some of the common substances screened for:

  • Cocaine

  • Amphetamines

  • Heroin

  • Alcohol

  • PCP

  • Marijuana

  • Codeine

  • Methadone

  • Barbiturates

  • Antidepressants

Is Drug Screening an Invasion of Privacy?

Drug screening is considered controversial; however, companies do have the right to require a drug-free workplace. Even so, many people find the practice as an invasion of privacy. Laws regarding drug screening can vary from state to state, but most have protections in place to insure privacy but allow for the company's rights. You can check with your state for individual laws. For example, you may want to ask:

  • Are random or unannounced drug testings allowed? If so, do all employees need to be tested, can an employer single out certain employees for random testing?

  • Are companies required to have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause of drug abuse to request testing?

  • Are there certain circumstances, such as after a work-related injury or accident, that an employer can request a drug screening?

  • Must the employer offer rehabilitation services to those people testing positive for drugs?

  • If results are positive, what rights does the employee have? Can a second, confirmation test be requested? If so, is the employer required to pay for the second test or is the employee requesting a re-test required to pay?

Most employers will have a written drug testing policy and usually there is a written notice of testing prior to administering the screening. Some companies will provide a list of medications (prescription and over-the-counter) that may produce a positive result.

Prescription Medications and Drug Testing

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on a disability, however, it does not prohibit drug screening and testing. Because of this, employees and potential employees may be forced to acknowledge their medical condition to their employer, even if they did not feel it was warranted or relevant to their job.

The Epilepsy Foundation, based on concerns that seizure medication may give a "false positive" on testing, much like ADHD medications may, indicate that employees:

  • Should be given the opportunity to present medical evidence to show documentation on the medical condition and legitimate, medically prescribed treatment

  • Should be able to request a second, independent test to confirm the results

  • Be provided with a written copy of the results of the test

  • Be given the opportunity to appeal any decision resulting in loss of employment or any other adverse actions that took place in the workplace as a result of the positive drug screening

  • Have any medical information disclosed through the drug testing process remain confidential

Some experts believe you should speak with your employer and be forthright in discussing your medical condition and medications prior to drug testing, so there are no surprises later. Some individuals, however, do not believe they should be forced to disclose their ADHD, as it may cause a negative view in the employer's eyes and may result in not being offered employment or in other forms of discriminate in the workplace.

Prior to taking the drug test, applicants should receive a form to complete with their personal information. This should include a place to list all medication that is currently being taken or has been taken in the recent past. You may even want to request your doctor provide you with written documentation for your prescription. With this information, some drug testing agencies will not include the results showing this medication in the positive results.

Even if you have received a test without first indicating your medication, you should be given an opportunity to explain any positive results, before they are sent to your employer or potential employer.

If you feel you have been discriminated against based on drug screening, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

For more information:

Workplace Accommodations with Adults with ADHD

The American's With Disabilities Act and ADHD

ADHD at Work

Self-Advocacy in the Workplace

Finding Your ADHD Friendly Job

How to Advocate For Yourself


"Drug Testing", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Epilepsy Foundation of America

"Employee Drug Testing", 2008, Dec 13, Staff Writer, HealthyPlace.com

"Employee Drug & Alcohol Testing", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Martindale-Hubbell Lawyers.com

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.