How Long Do I Have to Wait for Drug Test Results?
Negative Drug Test Results
If you were given an instant test, obviously you should know right away if the results were negative. If you took a laboratory test, it can take up to 72 hours just to complete the process. For all Department of Transportation-regulated tests and even most non-regulated tests, an MRO must review all tests, including negative ones. The MRO must ensure that the collection and laboratory processes were performed correctly and that there was nothing unusual either in the urine or with the laboratory procedures.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that you will receive your results within 72 hours. It does mean, however, that your [prospective] employer or court-appointed official will know that you are negative within 72 hours. If your test returns negative, you probably will never hear of this test again.
For Pre-Employment Tests you will know that your test was negative when you receive a call to attend orientation. For Random Tests, if you keep your job your tests were negative.
It is expected that you pass a drug test. It is assumed that you know you will pass and are not the least concerned or curious about the results. Calling the employer and asking about your results will only tip the employer off that you have no clue whether you can pass a drug test or not.
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Positive Drug Test Results
You should know entering into this situation that the wait will seem agonizingly long. The specimen will travel via overnight courier to the laboratory, when the lab will take most of the following day to give the initial screening. If the initial screening shows a non-negative, then the specimen needs to go through the GC/MS confirmation process. This can take another 72 hours. Then, the results are forwarded to an MRO for review.
The MRO will try to get in contact with you in the next 3-10 days. The length of time the MRO tries to contact you is set by the employer. Most of the time it is no longer than three days. The MRO may contact the employer in an attempt to make contact with the donor. The MRO calls the employer, who then pulls you off your job and forces you to speak with the MRO right there.
Whatever the MRO asks you, you should answer honestly. Lying to an MRO at this point does absolutely no good. The MRO is looking at your urine results and knows if you have adulterated, attempted to substitute or taken a banned substance. The MRO already knows everything you may not want him/her to know, and simply wants to inform you what is in the urine and if it is supposed to be in there.
All of this takes time, and if the result is negative your employer will simply put the documents in your file and not think twice about it. If found to be adulterated (by adding a foreign substance to the specimen), substituted (by not having the correct temperature or allowing a collector to see substitution materials) or positive for a banned substance illegally in your system, unfortunately you may never hear of the results from the employer if this is a Pre-Employment test. The drug test is part of the application process. If you do not pass, you do not get the job. The employer is under no obligation to waste time by calling you to tell you of a failed drug test.
Most results are transmitted to the employer from the TPA or MRO via fax or internet. The employer might take a couple of days to download the information. It just depends on the employer’s workload that week and his immediate need to hire new employees. Not just anyone at a company can receive the results. The results of any drug test, positive or negative, can only be transmitted to the company DER. If that person is on vacation, and the alternate DER is too busy to mess with hiring until the main DER returns, you could be waiting another two weeks.
Avoiding the call from the MRO is strongly discouraged. You are wasting everyone’s time. Everyone is paid per test, from the collector to the lab to the MRO. By making everyone wait for their money and work harder to complete the test, you aren’t making any friends in the MRO or C/TPA offices, let alone the employer who may also be waiting for results. Delaying the results only frustrates the employer and draws unwanted attention to your drug test.
On the other hand, if your test was a Random, Return-to-Duty, Follow-Up, Post Accident/Near Miss or Court Ordered, delaying results by avoiding the MRO could get you a few more days of employment or freedom, depending on your situation.
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