What Happens if You Fail a Drug Test?

Tim Rosenberger Tim Rosenberger

October 22, 2021

Historically, drug tests have been used by criminal justice system during parole, and sporting bodies to test athletes. However, many companies have now adopted drug testing for prospective and the already hired employees, and there are consequences if you fail the test.

After taking a drug test, the most disturbing question that comes to mind is “what will happen if I fail the test?” Will you lose the job opportunity? Will you get in legal trouble? Or you’ll get another chance to retake the test! Well, the answer to these questions depends on why you’re being tested, the specific laws you’re governed under, and the leniency of those involved, among other factors.

In this post, we are going to discuss the consequences of failing a drug test and the available options.

Consequences of a failed drug test

A failed drug test could mean a lot of things. To unravel this topic, let’s dive deeper into the specific reasons for being tested.

Employment Consequences

The employment consequences that befall you if you fail a drug test will depend on a company’s guidelines. It will also depend on whether you are a prospective employee or an existing employee.

If a drug test is one of the steps in the hiring process, a company is likely to avoid you if you fail the drug test. This is because most companies are wary of hiring employees who are drug users, as this may affect productivity.

If the drug test is random for employees in an organization, the consequences may range from a short-term suspension to termination, depending on the company. Therefore, you should review your company’s policies on drug users, as this may lead you to lose your job.

The Available Options

If you fail a drug test during the hiring stage, and you don’t want to lose that opportunity, you can ask the company for a test retake at a later date. Okay, it’s a long shot, but you have nothing to lose. Besides, if you don’t do it, you will lose the opportunity anyway.

If you fail a drug test, and you’re already employed, the measures that the company will take against you will determine your options. For example, if you’re given a short-term suspension, you will need to show your employer that you are reliable and productive once you return to work, and avoid any drug usage.

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If the organization decides to release you, it may be too late. However, if you’ve been a reliable employee with a good track record, you can still plead with the company to give you a second chance. Here, you can also give them assurances that you are ready to retake the test after some time, and you’re also prepared to get professional counseling and treatment on drug and substance abuse.

The Retake Test

If the organization gives you a chance to retake the test, it will be administered after a couple of months to ensure you are sober enough, and the drugs are out of your system.

During this period, it is advisable that you seek professional drug counseling services on how you can avoid illegal drugs altogether. If you retake the test and pass, you will be allowed to get back to work, but failing the test may lead to termination without the opportunity of a second chance.

Most companies will also initiate follow-up tests from time to time, even after you have passed the retake test. This is to confirm that you have completely stopped using illegal drugs.

Probation Consequences

If you’re on parole, and you are subjected to a mandatory drug test, the consequences for failing the test might be dire.

In such a case, the parole officer sends a violation report to a judge who will determine the measures to be taken against you. If you’re lucky, the judge will give you a warning and inform you of the consequences that might befall you if you continue using drugs during the probation period. If you’re not lucky, the parole will be revoked, and you will return to jail.

To be on the safe side, you should avoid illegal drugs during the probation period. If you fail multiple drug tests during this time, the chances of the parole being revoked are high.

Military Drug Test Fail

For military officers, failing a drug test does not have any dire consequences if there is no proof that you intentionally used the drugs. Without this evidence, no case can be held against you.

However, if there is tangible proof that you abused the drugs knowingly, you risk facing an administrative discharge. There are two types of administrative discharges, as shown below:

Bad Conduct Discharge

If you’re enlisted as a military officer, a court-martial can subject you to this type of discharge. It is subjected to military officers who are found guilty of engaging in misconduct, such as drug abuse.

Before you are discharged, you will first be confined in a military prison as an additional punishment for your wrongdoing. Once the confinement is over, you are released, and you cease to be a part of the Armed Forces.

Dishonorable Discharge

This type of discharge is given to military officers who have engaged in reprehensible behavior. In this regard, reprehensible behavior involves shameful offenses, such as sexual assault, murder, desertion, and corruption. Most of the perpetrators of some of these acts have often been under the influence of illegal drugs and substances.

On receiving the dishonorable discharge, any benefits that an officer was entitled to are taken away. The U.S. federal law even forbids such persons from owning firearms.

Can a Military Officer Avoid Failing the Drug Test?

Drug testing on military officers is usually a comprehensive process designed to give accurate results. This is because illegal drug abuse among the armed forces is gross misconduct with severe consequences. Therefore, to avoid getting discharged from the army, military officers are advised to keep off drugs as much as possible.

However, military officers use other unconventional methods to avoid failing the drug test, even after they have used the drugs. These methods include using synthetic urine, urine dilution, and natural detox. Read more about these methods here.

The Bottom Line

Failing the drug test has dire consequences for both job seekers and those who are already employed. Before submitting a job application in any company, you should check their drug usage policy. If they have a zero-tolerance policy towards illegal drug users, and you have abused drugs lately, it is better you postpone the job application to another time when you will be sober. If you are already employed, you never know when your employer will decide to introduce random drug tests, so it is better you stay away from illegal drugs.

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