Drug Screens?


I recently was asked to do labs at the VA. I informed them I would not consent to a drug screen and that they didn't have my permission if they wanted to do that. They drug screened me anyway and I tested positive for THC. I'm mad as hell. I told them, "No drug screen" and they did it anyway. Does this mean the VA can override my medical decisions and do what they want?

One of the nurses drawing the blood said the VA was testing to see if I was taking my medications or if I was selling them. Great, but what would I sell? My prostate meds? I'm not on anything strong at all so they told me they would not drug test me, but they did anyway. Legally, if I refuse a drug screen can they do it anyway? What happens if I don't want a vaccine? Can they say ok and do it anyway? Do you know of any case law on this subject? I appreciate any help.


Jim's Reply:

You're right to be upset. I'm not sure I understand who you told that you would not consent to a drug screen but once you say that, there should be no further discussion and you should not have received a drug screen. VA policy is clear that permission...informed consent...is required.

Now we should address why you're so upset about a drug screen, You may know that VA doesn't care much if you smoke pot, there are no penalties for substance abuse of any kind. You won't lose benefits, although for anything other than weed you may be offered rehab. If VA is prescribing pain medications for you, the prescriber may interrupt that if you chose to smoke pot. That's fairly consistent with what's up with substance screens everywhere in America now...not only VA.

The deal is that VA is treating substance abuse as it should...as a health issue, not a criminal issue. Screening at every encounter is no different than checking your liver and kidneys to be sure they're functioning. Without the lab test your provider wouldn't know you had a problem.

I'm a retired health care professional and I agree with the position that every adult should be screened at every encounter. And since we're talking of that, I had a visit with my primary care doctor just yesterday and we reviewed my lab work drawn the week before and he never mentioned my positive marijuana screen. In fact, over the last 20 years not one person at VA has said one word to me about smoking pot. 

The best I can offer you is that were I you, I'd reexamine why I'm so upset over a really trivial issue. You can talk with your primary care provider and let that person know that you're unhappy. If you feel it's worth your time, you can escalate to the director of the facility and have everyone wondering why you're so concerned.

Some form of marijuana use, recreational or medicinal, is legal in the majority of states. That the feds haven't caught up with that yet is no reason for you to act like you're sneaking behind a bush to get high. Were I you, I'd either quit smoking pot or own up to it. Good luck.