Worried about the results of your drug test? This can be a nerve-wracking time, whether you’re starting a new job or testing after an accident. The timeframe for drug test results varies considerably, but we’ll go over some averages to keep in mind. Here’s an overview of when your drug test results should come back.

Timeline for Negative DOT Drug Tests

Negative drug tests typically come back faster than positive drug tests. These are the ‘easy’ results to decipher because they do not require additional interpretations. Many employers receive negative drug tests back within 24-48 hours, but that can change based on holidays, weekends, and the testing center’s hours of operation.

Timeline for Positive DOT Drug Tests

Positive drug tests may take 3-5 business days to come back to your employer. The Medical Review Officer (MRO) may take additional time to assess the results and provide a verdict. For instance, your drug test may show positive for a prescription pain medicine. If you can provide the prescription and the results are within the prescribed range, the MRO may negate the positive test results.

Some specimens go through multiple rounds of testing, especially if there is a suspected error in the test or test results. This can be frustrating to deal with from a test-taker’s standpoint, but there isn’t much you can do to speed up the process.

Factors That Impact Drug Test Result Reports

There are several reasons why your drug test results may be delayed. Holidays and weekend schedules are the most common reasons for delay. Your sample may be processed on Friday, but the work week may not start until the following Tuesday. If it takes several days to record the results and complete the report, you may not hear about it until the next Friday or later.

Labor shortages impact drug testing centers, just like they do everywhere else. If your center is short staffed, the results may take a while. System errors, testing complexity, medical reviews, and other obstacles can further delay your results. Remain in communication with your employer, and you’ll get your results as quickly as possible.

How Long Does a Failed Drug Test Stay on Your Record?

If you are a DOT-regulated employee, your failed drug test will remain on your record until you’ve completed the Return to Duty (RTD) process. This is a requirement before returning to safety-sensitive job duties. After you complete RTD, your test results will stay on your FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse record for five years, but they will show that you took the steps necessary to be cleared for work.

If you do not complete RTD, your failed drug test will remain on your record indefinitely.

How Quickly Can I Return to Work after a Failed Drug Test?

Employers are required to remove you from safety-sensitive job duties after a failed drug test. Until you complete RTD, you cannot work the job you had before. It is your employer’s discretion to terminate your employment or keep you on in some capacity, but you cannot resume the same work until you complete your RTD process.

The best way to get back to work fast is to meet with a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) in your area. A DOT-qualified SAP will personalize your RTD requirements and guide you through the process. You can find a SAP near you by contacting American Substance Abuse Professionals. They will guide you through the process and connect you with a SAP near you.

American Substance Abuse Professionals (ASAP) has a nationwide reach in all 50 states and U.S. territories.For over 25 years they have helped employees like you return to work with an 85% success rate.