I worked in the field of mental health for 25+ years, and came
to have a great appreciation for the invaluable role played by
the nurses with whom I worked, so I understand your shock and
dismay with this unpleasant situation casting doubts upon your
First, let me address the substances which might be causing
false positives, though nothing you've named seems suspect.
Vanilla Spice Chai creamer seems very unlikely, and a search
for coffee in relation to a false positive turns up only this
one, unexplained cautionary note from Drug Testing 101:
"Drinking plenty of water and juices helps rid the body of
impurities. Stay away from coffee, tea and carbonated
beverages if possible. Also refrain from drinking alcohol.
While alcohol is being metabolized the body does little
else in the way of processing other foods and ingestibles,
preferring to concentrate on the alcohol because it is an
extremely rich source of energy and sugars. In other words,
consuming alcohol slows the body's process of clearing
itself of other impurities."
Much more information on the page:
Ibuprofen has been known to cause false positives for THC, the
active ingredient in marijuana, but not for amphetamines.
From the LegalMatch website:
"Medications that contain ephedrine or phenypropanolamine, such
as nasal sprays or diet products, could cause a false positive
From the NYU Medical Center:
"...remember that liver problems, kidney problems, or diabetes
may cause a false-positive for amphetamines..."
From the AskDocWeb site:
"Can Fioricet cause a false positive for amphetamines?"
"Yes it can, it is a barbiturate."
and, finally, the motherlode...
"The chances of you getting a false positive depends on the
quality of the laboratory that does the testing. There seems
to be about 1,200 of these labs in the United States currently
testing for drugs. Less than a 100 of these meet federal
standards and most of the individual states do not regulate
drug test labs. The number of false positives returned range
from 4% to over 50%, depending on the lab.
A concern here is that, if your company tests for drug useage,
they are probably not required to use a certified drug testing
lab, which means you have a greater chance of getting a false
Listed below are all the substances, that we found, that can
cause a false positive drug test result. With your help, this
will grow into a comprehensive list.
Substances that cause false positives [not just for amphetamines]
Amoxicillin - False positives for cocaine
Anti-anxiety pills - Many will test positive for Benzodiazepines
Antibiotics - False positives on Heroin Tests
Asthma medications (Marax, Bronkaid tablets, Primatine Tablets)
Cough medicines - See if any ingredients are on this list
Cough suppressants with Dextromethorphan (DXM)
Diazepam (generic name for valium)
Diazepam False positives for PCP
Dristan Nasal Spray
Elavil - False positives for opiates for up to three days
Ephedra (Ma Haung)
Ephedrine based compounds
Fioricet and derivatives
Ibuprofen - False positives for Marijuana
Lettuce - Both Prickly and Blue
Lortab - an opioid analgesic
Menstrual cramp medications like Midol and Trendar
Most prescription pain medications
Nasal decongestants - False positives for Amphetamines
Nyquil Nighttime Cold Medicine - False positives for Methadone up to 2 days
OTC diet aids with phenylpropanolamine (Dexatrim, Accutrim)
Over-the-counter nasal sprays (Vicks inhaler, Afrin)
Prescription sleeping pills
Primatene-M containing perylamine
Quinine water - False positives for opiates
Robitussin Cold and Flu
Tylenol with codeine
Vicks Formula 44M containing Dextromethorphan
Vicks Nasal Spray
[note the mention of vitamin B2]
From the Phentermine Forum:
"Phentermine can cause a false positive for amphetamines on some
drug test. These are urine test."
"I do not and have not done illegal drugs however I have tested
positive for amphetamines.The only medication I am on is 300mg
wellbutrin per day."
"I tested positive for amphetamines after taking DXM a couple days
"Dextromethorphan hydrobromide (DXM for short) is an antitussive
drug that is found in many over-the-counter cold remedies and
From an article by Anthony D. Crane about drug testing in prison:
"FENOPROFIN (active ingredient--Nalfon) tested positive for Marijuana,
Amphetamines, Barbiturates, and Methaqual one."
"PHENYLPROPAN-OLAMINE (active ingredients--Actifed, Alka-Seltzer,
Alka-Selzer Plus, Allerest, Caldecon, Contac, Dietac, Dimetapp,
4-Way Nasal Spray, Ortain, Sinarest, Triaminicin) tested positive
I think that pretty well covers substances which might cause a
false positive. What remains is what to do. The following article
on Issues notes that:
"A number of organizations have submitted proof as to the
inaccuracies of drug testing. Drugfreeschools.com indicates
that the low cost, easy to administer tests often produce both
false-positive and false negative results, and that all positive
results should be backed up by the more accurate Gas Chromatograph
/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) test. The sad fact is, everyone seems
to be under the scrutiny of drug testing even though the medical
field realizes that these test may be inaccurate. The American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has fought the issue of drug testing
for years, on both the merit of drug tests as well as violation
of individual civil rights, still their challenge has remained
unheard. An article by Intuitor.com offers a statistical insight
into what percentage of innocent people have incorrectly been
identified as drug users as a result of inaccurate drug tests,
which leads us to believe that in America, where drug testing
is concerned, we are guilty until proven innocent."
The article on Intuitor.com notes:
"The population of people identified as drug users consists of
individuals who actually are drug users (1.98% of the employees
tested) and incorrectly identified individuals who actually are
not drug users (0.98% of the employees tested). The percentage
of people identified as drug users who are actually innocent
can be calculated as follows:
Pinnocent = Pcw /( Pcw +Pdr )
= (0.98%) /(0.98% + 1.98%)
= .331 or 33.1%
The wild eyed claim that a third of all people accused of drug
use will be innocent is not so ridiculous after all."
And, from the first link I gave, at LegalMatch:
"An employment lawyer can help an employee who has not been hired,
who was fired, or who has been denied benefits because of a false
positive drug test result. If you believe your drug test produced
a false positive result, an experienced employment attorney can
help protect your rights."
As for the reliability of the GC/MS, it identifies the metabolites
of the substance in question. If the metabolites are identical, as
noted in this excellent article on 'drug testing accuracy and
standards', even the GC/MS has been said to show a false positive
for marijuana due to Ibuprofen use:
"3.2.1 Ibuprofen: Ibuprofen is a common pain reliever that (even
in low dosages) used to cause a false THC positive on the EMIT
test. The EMIT has been changed to use a different enzyme to
eliminate false positives due to Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen in very
high doses will still interfere with both the EMIT and the GC/MS.
There is some conflicting data here because some sources say that
the GC/MS tests can distinguish between Ibuprofen and THC (as well
as other over-the-counter drugs)."
On the other hand, it can distinguish between poppy seeds and opium:
"Although poppy seeds have the same metabolites as opium, these
metabolites are shown to have different patterns when viewed
with the GC/MS."
The page also has extensive information about the relative accuracy
and standards of different labs, asserting that only the ones that
are certified by the NIDA or CAP are accurate:
"NIDA (The National Institute of Drug Abuse) is the government
organization responsible for regulating the drug-testing industry.
The vast majority of urine drug screens done these days conform
to NIDA specs, and ALL testing associated with the government
(department of transportation, etc.) complies with the NIDA
standard. It is NIDA that decides what the "safe" cutoffs are
to avoid false positives..."
"CAP (College of American Pathologists) also certifies
laboratories the way NIDA does. NIDA keeps it's labs in
check by sending positive and negative double-blind samples.
Lab personnel does not know what samples came from NIDA. If
the lab results are wrong, NIDA may take away the lab's
certification. Only labs that perform the GC/MS on site
can be NIDA certified. Labs that send samples to another
laboratory for GC/MS confirmation are ineligible for NIDA
So, other than insisting that another test be conducted by one of
the ~100 labs that meets federal standards for drug testing (which
suggestion could be turned down by a prospective employer), it
comes down to the fact that employers are essentially free to act
on the information provided by the tests, especially if they do
a second one in the form of a GC/MS, and seeking legal assistance
may be your only recourse, should you deem it worthwhile.
Being that nurses are in great demand, it shouldn't be difficult
to obtain employment elsewhere, and the results of a failed test
from an employer who subsequently declines to hire you should not
be made available to any other agencies without a release of
information on your part.
Beyond that, it would seem prudent to familiarize yourself with the
recommendations on the Drug Testing 101 page, regarding strategies
to decrease the likelihood of a false positive in any future tests
with potential employers.
Please post a Request for Clarification if you have any questions.
Additional information may be found from further exploration
of the links provided above, as well as those resulting from
the Google searches outlined below.
Searches done, via Google:
"cause a false positive for amphetamines"
"tested positive for amphetamines"
coffee "false positive for amphetamines"