Can Antidepressants Show Up On a Drug Test?

It's unlikely but sometimes false-positives do occur.

Antidepressants. Credit: Kirby Hamilton/Getty Images

People with depression taking a prescription medication like Prozac sometimes worry that the medication will turn up on a drug test. This worry may be especially prominent if the person with depression is seeking a new job, and a prospective employer requires that he take a drug test in order to get hired.

Is this a legitimate concern? Possibly, but there is a way for you to take action to ensure your results are interpreted accurately.

The Drug Lab Must Specifically Search for Antidepressants

Although awareness about mental health conditions such as depression has grown over the years, it is still common for people with depression to fret, and rightfully so, about the stigma associated with a depression diagnosis. With this in mind, it's understandable that a person wants their depression diagnosis to be kept private especially from a current or prospective employer. They may fear they could be discriminated against or singled out for the condition in the workplace.

The good news, however, is that people with depression do not 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 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.

The Possibility of a False Positive on a Drug Test

A report in Current Psychiatry noted that a number antidepressants can yield false positive results on drug tests.

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

How can this happen?  Drug tests are very sensitive, detecting small amounts of chemical substances. So 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.

A Word From Verywell

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. 

Sources:

Nasky KM, Cowan GL, Knittel DR. False-positive urine screening for benzodiazepine: An association with sertraline? Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2009 Jul;6(7):36-9.

Rapuri SB, Ramaswamy S, Madaan V, Rasimas JJ, Krahn LE. “WEED” out false-positive urine drug screensCurr Psychiatry. 2006;5(8):107–110

Continue Reading