Commercial motor vehicle drivers are allowed to take prescription medicine as long as they fit within certain parameters.
The Department of Transportation has rules in place to protect the safety of workers and other drivers on the road. If the prescription drug inhibits that safety, it could be cause for termination.
Let’s take a closer look at the rules to understand how the DOT regards prescription drug use.
DOT Drug Testing Regulations for Prescription Drugs
As a general rule, the DOT allows CMV drivers and other regulated workers to take legally prescribed drugs if they do not impair the person’s motor functions or cognitive abilities. If you have a prescription for blood pressure medicine or antibiotics, that probably won’t affect your employment at all.
The lines get a little blurry when it comes to pain medicine and drugs used for mental health treatment. According to the FAQs from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, “Although the driver has a legal prescription, he/she may be disqualified if the medication could adversely affect the driver’s ability to drive a CMV safely.” If your prescription medication could lead to a positive drug test, you may be removed from safety-sensitive work.
With that in mind, you can provide proof of prescription at the time of the drug test. The Medical Review Officer will take that into consideration before confirming the results of the drug test. If you’re taking the medicine as prescribed, the MRO may override the results.
Termination Decisions Are Entirely Up to the Employer
The Department of Transportation is not responsible for firing you after a drug test. The DOT will require your employer to remove you from safety-sensitive job duties, but the actual termination is up to the employer. Each employer has its own rules regarding failed drug tests.
What about Medical Marijuana?
Medical marijuana is not federally legal at this time. Because the DOT operates on the federal level, they must abide by federal guidelines. You may have the right to use medical marijuana in your state, but you will not be allowed to continue working as a CMV driver if you fail a drug test for THC.
Safety Practices When Taking Prescription Medication
The best way to keep your job when taking prescription medicine is to be upfront with your employer. For instance, if you’re in a car accident and need to take pain meds during your recovery, you should consider telling your employer before hitting the road. This may save you from having to take a drug test and then explain your circumstances after the fact.
You may also consider going on short-term disability during your recovery if your prescription medicine may affect your driving abilities. This will give you some form of income along the way and will prevent you from potentially failing a drug test.
No matter what, make sure you take your prescriptions exactly as prescribed. Talk to your doctor about prospective issues at your job and see if your medications can be adjusted accordingly.
What to Do If You Fail a Drug Test
If you fail a DOT drug test and get removed from safety-sensitive job duties, you aren’t without hope. There is a special process you can complete to return to work, even with a failed drug test on your record.
You’ll first need to meet with a DOT-qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). This person will create a personalized Return-to-Duty process (RTD) for you to complete. Once you’ve finished the steps, you’ll submit to another drug test. Assuming you pass, you’ll be cleared to return to work.
American Substance Abuse Professionals is a trusted source with an extensive list of SAPs across the U.S. They can match you with a SAP in your area to help you get back to work quickly.