Can Cold Medicines Affect Workplace Drug Testing?

Cold season is underway, and that means that people are probably having to take cold medicine. If your employees undergo workplace drug testing, it’s important to know how cold medicines could affect the outcome of the test.

Cold Medicine Ingredients Can Affect Workplace Drug Testing

Workplace drug testing is important for maintaining safety and worker health. However, the results of drug tests can be affected by over-the-counter cold medicines that are commonly used at this time of year. Ingredients like hydrocodone, codeine and sympathomimetics can all show up on workplace drug testing results.


While hydrocodone is used as a pain reliever, it is also present in cold medicine as a cough suppressant. It is effective at controlling coughs, but prolonged use is not recommended as addiction is possible. Some workplace drug testing panels will return a positive result when hydrocodone has been ingested.


This is another cough suppressant that is common in cold medicine. When codeine enters the body, it transforms into morphine in the blood stream. This can easily lead to a positive workplace drug testing result.


This is actually a group of drugs that includes pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, which act as decongestants in cold medicine. These substances will not usually cause a positive result on workplace drug testing when a two-tiered test process is used. However, a non-negative result is common at the first phase of testing.

Disclosing Use of Cold Medicines

Companies can ask employees to keep track of all over-the-counter drugs, like cold medicine, that they use that might cause a positive test result. The custody and control form is where use of cold medicine should be disclosed at the time of workplace drug testing. This makes it easier for the worker to provide justification should a positive drug test result be returned.
Test Smartly Labs nationwide provides drug and alcohol testing for employees.  Contact your nearest location to learn more about our services.

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