False-Positive Amphetamines in Urine Drug Screens: A 6-Year Review

Jeffrey D. Pope, Olaf H. Drummer, Hans G. Schneider

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Immunoassays are routinely used to provide rapid urine drug screening results in the clinical setting. These screening tests are prone to false-positive results and ideally require confirmation by mass spectrometry. In this study, we have examined a large number of urine specimens where drugs other than amphetamines may have caused a false-positive amphetamine immunoassay screening result. Urine drug screens (12,250) in a clinical laboratory that used the CEDIA amphetamine/ecstasy method were reviewed for false-positive results over a 6-year period (2015-2020). An additional 3,486 referred samples, for which confirmatory--mass spectrometry was requested, were also reviewed. About 86 in-house samples and 175 referral samples that were CEDIA false-positive screens were further analyzed by an LC-QTOF general unknown screen. Potential cross-reacting drugs were identified, and their molecular similarities to the CEDIA targets were determined. Commercial standards were also analyzed for cross-reactivity in the amphetamine/ecstasy CEDIA screen. Positive amphetamine results in 3.9% of in-house samples and 9.9% of referred tests for confirmatory analysis were false positive for amphetamines. Of these false-positive specimens, on average, 6.8 drugs were detected by the LC-QTOF screen. Several drugs were identified as possible cross-reacting drugs to the CEDIA amphetamine/ecstasy assay. Maximum common substructure scores for 70 potential cross-reacting compounds were calculated. This was not helpful in identifying cross-reacting drugs. False-positive amphetamine screens make up to 3.9-9.9% of positive amphetamine screens in the clinical laboratory. Knowledge of cross-reacting drugs may be helpful when mass spectrometry testing is unavailable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-270
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Analytical Toxicology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2023

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