Living with Chronic Pain

Over-the-counter Medications and Urine Screenings


What is a Urine Screening?

A urine screening is used to detect drugs in the body. Toxins and certain other waste products are filtered from the body's blood by the kidneys, which produce urine. Therefore, urine screenings are a valuable tool for identifying the presence of drugs in the body. While many employers, health care facilities, pain management physicians, and athlete directors require a urine screening, there is a constant fear that over-the-counter medications can produce a positive reading for the presence of drugs in the body's system.

Medications that Can Cause a False Positive

Certain over-the-counter medications can cause urine samples to read positive for narcotics. These include, but are not limited to, antidepressants, certain antibiotics, analgesics, decongestants, antipsychotics, and antihistamines. Some cough and cold medications that contain limited amounts of alcohol can result in a positive screening for alcohol use. The package insert included with the prescription antidepressant Sertraline warns that it can possibly cause a false positive. Additionally, poppy seeds, which are found on certain bread items and bagels, contain an extremely small amount of opiates (specifically morphine and codeine) and can generate a false positive. Fortunately, NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, do not normally produce a false positive result.

What to do before a urine screen?

Any over-the-counter medications taken should be discussed with a pharmacist to determine if it can give a false positive reading for narcotic use. It is also imperative for individuals to discuss any medications, including over-the-counter medications, and supplements with the physician and technician collecting the urine sample.

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