Can Antidepressants Like Prozac Show Up on a Drug Test?

Do depression patients have cause for concern?

Antidepressants. Credit: Kirby Hamilton/Getty Images

Depression patients using prescription drugs such as Prozac to treat the condition sometimes worry that the medication will turn up on a drug test. This goes double if the depression patient is seeking a new job, and a prospective employer requires that he take a drug test in order to get hired.

Should depression patients on medication worry in this instance? Get the facts on antidepressants and drug tests with this overview.

The Drug Lab Must Specifically Search for Antidepressants

Although awareness about mental health conditions such as depression have grown over the years, depression patients still worry, and rightfully so, about the stigma associated with a depression diagnosis. With this in mind, it's understandable that depression patients want their condition to be kept private and certainly don't want a current or prospective employer to find out that they're depressed. They may fear they could be discriminated against or singled out for the condition in the workplace.

The good news, however, is that these patients don't have to worry about their employers finding out that they are in treatment for depression. That's because whichever lab a company uses to screen would-be employees for drugs would have to be specifically looking for antidepressants in order to detect them. 

Antidepressants are not considered to be drugs of abuse, so there is simply no reason that your employer would be looking for them.

However, it is possible that your antidepressant might show up as a false positive for a controlled substance, which would certainly be a problem.

Which Drugs Cause False Positives?

A report in the Journal of Family Practice authored by Srinivas B. Rapuri and colleagues noted that several antidepressants can yield false positive results on drug tests.

Bupropion (Wellbutrin), fluoxetine (Prozac), trazodone (Desyrel) and nefazodone can all potentially show up as amphetamines. In addition, sertraline (Zoloft) may show up as a benzodiazepine.

Drug tests are sometimes wrong, basically because they are very sensitive, detecting small amounts of chemical substances. These tests are not very specific, however. If a drug has a chemical structure that is very similar to the one being tested for, the test isn't able to differentiate the "good" drug from the "bad" one.

If you are concerned that your antidepressant might show up as a false positive, your best course of action is to be proactive.  Bring your prescription bottle with you to the testing so that the tester can make a notation in his records, just in case there are any questions later.

Just because you tell the drug tester that you're on prescription drugs for depression doesn't mean that this information will be relayed to your employer. The employees at the lab and your future supervisor likely have no contact with each other.

The company simply contracts with a lab to screen job applicants for drugs.  

Other Alternatives

If you're really concerned about the possibility of your depression medications showing up as false positives on a drug test, speak to your mental health provider about any steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of this occurring. You can also try to avoid companies that make drug tests mandatory. Plenty of companies do not use drug tests to screen employees.

Continue Reading