What Happens if You Fail a Drug Test?

A Woman Holding a Failed Drug Test Result in Her Two Hands


If you fail a drug test and get a positive result, it doesn’t always signify that you’re utilizing a drug. False positives can happen, and employers are aware of this. As a result, they may ask you to do a confirmatory test.

The number of American businesses that do marijuana drug tests is declining, and in certain places, the law even protects employees. Companies that are in places where cannabis is legal are still known to fire employees if they find the drug in their system.

Sometimes, if your test comes back positive, you may get a second chance to take the test. But okay, you still might be asking yourself, “So does that happen all the time? Will you lose your job if you fail a drug test? Will you go to jail?”


Let’s go through all the details in this article and get your questions answered!


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Who needs to take a drug test?

Anyone from athletes, and employees, to military personnel, might need to take a drug test at least once in their careers. This includes testing via a urine sample, blood, saliva, or hair sample. 

A standard test has a cutoff level of 50 ng/ml. To put it in perspective, studies have found that one joint can produce 150 to 200 ng/ml of THC-COOH concentration. However, other researchers found that anyone who ingests 1g of “light cannabis” will most likely test negative in urine tests with a cutoff level of 25 ng/ml.

Furthermore, studies show that:

  • Just one inhalation of a 1.75% “low dose” or 3.55% “high dose” THC cannabis cigarette, the average THC concentration levels found in plasma will be around 7.0 ng/ml and 18.1 ng/ml. 
  • Smoking cannabis joints with 1.64% delta-9 THC results in an average peak of 77 ng/ml of THC in plasma. 
  • Smoking joints with 1.8% delta-9 THC results in an average peak of 75 ng/ml of THC in plasma. 
  • Smoking joints with 3.6% delta-9 THC results in an average peak of 100 ng/ml of THC in plasma.

These results are often seen in urine just 3-4 hours after ingesting THC.

What is the most common drug test for employment?

Most employers opt for 5-panel drug tests because they are economically the better option and can show results in just minutes. Typically, the 5 drugs that show up on these tests include: 

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Amphetamines
  • PCP

Other employers might use for example a 7-panel drug test that searches for a few of the drugs above plus: 

Some employers may opt for a 10-panel drug test that checks for all the drugs listed above, plus:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ectasy (MDMA)

Each company chooses the tests according to local laws. Now, let’s get into the real deal - what if you fail one of these tests? Keep reading to find out.

What happens if you fail a pre-employment drug test?

A Man Upset After Taking a Drug Test and Failing

If you test positive for drugs after taking a pre-employment drug test, the repercussions will be determined by your hiring manager. In most circumstances, the firm will not hire you. Your positive drug test may be a warning sign for the employer, and they have complete discretion over whether or not to hire you.

You may be recruited under specific circumstances in particular instances. They might give you the opportunity to demonstrate that you have received or are willing to receive expert assistance. This is, however, an uncommon occurrence.

What will happen if I fail a drug test at work?

If you fail a marijuana screening that your company pays for, you can likely lose your job. Though marijuana is legalized in 18 states and Washington D.C., it’s merely up to the employers to decide what to do with a failed test result. Over the years, however, more and more companies are ceasing drug testing just as in the case of Amazon. 

What happens if you fail a drug test on probation?

A Man Sitting With His Hands on his Head Sad After Failing a Drug Test


Failing a drug test while on probation can lead to further complications in sentencing and other possible consequences. Your probation officer will likely do periodic drug tests and/or alcohol tests. Knowing this you should take extra care to follow rules and adhere to the law. Some possible outcomes resulting from a failed drug test include:

A warning

If your probation officer finds that you have consumed marijuana, they may just give you an initial warning but it’s possible to have more severe punishments. However, the punishment depends on the seriousness of the crime i.e., if you just ingested the drug or you were found to be trafficking, distributing, or eliciting a minor, you may be sent back to jail right then and there. After your first warning, it’s best to stop any drug use whatsoever. 

Community Service

Whether you committed one or two offenses, your probation officer may give you community service hours as a penalty. They would be giving you another chance to make up for your crimes. 


If you were caught before for the same reasons and it’s already your second (or more) offense, you may be sent to a drug rehabilitation program. There are inpatient and outpatient programs that you can go to while attending school, work, etc. 

Probation Revocation

If you continue failing drug tests, your probation officer will then decide to get your probation revoked. Once a judge makes this decision, your punishment will likely change and be harsher. Oftentimes, when your probation is revoked you’re most probably going to be sent back to jail to finish your sentence.

How to explain a failed drug test

Don't take a failed test result at face value, especially if you don't use drugs in the first place! False positives can happen. If you've been taking low THC CBD oil (which is legal) or other drugs, you might fail a drug test.

A false positive result from a drug test is absolutely feasible, and there are various reasons for this. Other ways you can dispute a positive drug test result is by: 

  • Asking for a repeat test as soon as possible to see whether you get the same results or not. 
  • Listing out any NSAIDs, OTC medications, sleeping pills, allergy meds, antidepressants, or pain killers you’re taking. 
  • Requesting a more accurate testing method like a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) test or high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) test.
  • Finding assistance from a union leader or your private attorney. 

Foods to stay away from before a drug test

A Woman's Hand Holding a Thumb Downward Indicating a Failed Drug Test

Aside from OTC medication and prescription drugs, you also need to be wary of the foods to steer clear of before you go for drug screening. Some include:

  • Second-hand marijuana smoke 
  • CBD oil
  • Some B-vitamin supplements
  • Hemp seeds infused in milk or oil


Keep reading: How to Pass a Drug Test


Find your state’s drug testing laws

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Such a helpful and informative post. Learned quite a few new facts about drug tests.


Wow. Lots of information that I had no idea about before. Very eye opening.


This blog is very helpful for everyone. It is wise not to get involved in taking drugs or even to people who engage with illegal drugs to about association.

Blair Villanueva

I do wish some of my former jobs had drug testing. It is interesting to see how the process is and what happens when you fail.


In our country, failing a pre-employment drug test means automatic rejection because of the drug-free workplace policy.

Ivan Carlo Jose

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