Mandatory drug tests are an unavoidable reality for employees and athletes in many parts of the world. These tests screen for problematic substances like marijuana, cocaine, PCP, and opioids. So you’re safe if you've never seen or heard about any of these drugs, right?
Yes, but also no. False positives can still occur due to certain ingredients in testosterone boosters. Should you be concerned? Let's take a deeper look to find out.
Anabolic steroids and testosterone boosters
The difference between testosterone boosters and anabolic steroids is the most important factor to understand here. Both of them are primarily used to increase testosterone concentration but, anabolic steroids are illegal in most cases due to their composition and intended use.
Anabolic steroids are performance-enhancing substances that consist of synthetic testosterone-like compounds. They are often prescribed to men with issues like delayed puberty or significant muscle loss due to muscular dystrophy. Some athletes and bodybuilders also use these steroids to increase their endurance & muscle mass beyond what’s normal. So, what's the issue here?
Well, anabolic steroids are only legal if a licensed doctor prescribes them. They're also classified as a schedule III drug by the US Drug Enforcement Administration as they can lead to an addiction. This makes them strictly illegal to use without a medical prescription.
The term "testosterone boosters" usually refers to oral over-the-counter supplements. They are used for increasing testosterone production, boosting sex drive, and restoring energy levels.
Most of these boosters consist of natural ingredients like Fenugreek, Ginseng, and coffee which are legal and safe. Though, it is important to note that a recent 2020 study found over 100 unique ingredients in a batch of different testosterone supplements. Most of these ingredients won’t cause any issues, but some — like the B-complex vitamins — can trigger a false positive in drug tests.
The urine test
Urine testing is one of the most widely used drug testing methods because it is non-intrusive, easy to obtain, and fairly accurate. The primary purpose of urine screening is to detect drugs like methamphetamines, methadone, and barbiturates. Still, it can also detect the presence of anabolic steroids, especially if the testing method is devised with these testosterone enhancers in mind.
The intake of these steroids doesn't have to be recent, either. Oral anabolic steroids can appear in urine tests for about 14 days after the initial use. Similarly, injected steroids can reportedly last up to 1 month in your system. Though it is important to note that these durations are only anecdotal and there are no concrete medical studies to back their authenticity. Some reports also suggest that these durations might vary depending on the amount of steroids ingested/injected and the equipment used for the tests.
On the other hand, over-the-counter T boosters are a lot less likely to cause issues with urine tests. Most of their ingredients don't show up in test results in the first place. Plus, your body absorbs the majority of these compounds rather quickly. So, unless you take the supplement an hour or two before the test, it will not have much of an impact on your urine screening. That said, a few T booster ingredients can still trigger a false positive, and here's why.
Why do they cause false positives?
As we discussed earlier, most ingredients found in testosterone boosters do not affect drug tests in any way. But, specific components can trigger a false positive, especially if the testing methodology is not as robust. These trigger components are usually a close relative of high-ranking illegal drugs or are derived from the same source. The most common examples of these ingredients are:
Vitamin B2 is an essential component of T boosters. It slows down the production of 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into other androgen hormones like estrogen — reducing free testosterone concentration. Unfortunately, some manufacturers may obtain this vitamin from hemp seed oil which can show up as THC in urine tests.
CBD is an active ingredient in certain workout-focused testosterone boosters as it can accelerate muscle recovery — allowing you to work out harder and for longer. Unfortunately, CBD is a hemp product and can contain 0.3% THC. This amount is not enough to have any noticeable effect on your body but is enough to show up in urine drug tests to trigger a false positive.
Coca leaves have a long and rich history of being used as a medicine for fatigue, low libido, and symptoms of depression. Some studies also show their potential use in weight loss and physical fitness programs. Sadly, consuming anything with coca tea can leave cocaine metabolites in your system — causing a false positive for cocaine in a urine test.
What can I do about it?
First, stay away from anabolic testosterone boosters or similar steroids and only take FDA-approved over-the-counter testosterone supplements.
Secondly, check the ingredients. As we concluded earlier, only a handful of T-booster ingredients appear in regular urine drug tests. So, make sure the supplements you use do not include components like coca tea or hemp products.
Another point to note is the timing. If you know about an upcoming drug test, stop taking testosterone booster supplements for a few days; just to stay on the safe side.
Drug tests might make you anxious if you take testosterone-boosting supplements regularly. Failing the test can cause many employment and career issues, even if it is a false positive, so your concern is justified.
Luckily, you can reduce the chances of getting a false positive result if you stick to over-the-counter T boosters. It’s also important that you read the entire list of ingredients to ensure that the supplements do not include common false positive triggers like CBD and coca.