Plasma donation has become an increasingly popular way for people to earn some extra income. Plasma contains proteins that are used to make lifesaving medicines for people with bleeding disorders, immune deficiencies, and other illnesses. With the demand for plasma donations higher than ever, more people are asking – do plasma donation centers drug test donors?
The short answer is no – most plasma donation centers do not routinely perform drug tests on all donors prior to donating. However, that does not mean you can donate plasma while actively under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Plasma centers take many steps to ensure the safety and eligibility of donors.
Screening Process at Plasma Donation Centers
When you visit a plasma donation center for the first time, you will go through a screening process. This helps the staff determine your eligibility and suitability to donate plasma. Here are some key parts of the screening process:
Medical History Questionnaire
You will be required to complete a detailed questionnaire about your medical history, travel, sexual activity, drug use, and more. The questionnaire will directly ask if you have ever used illegal intravenous drugs. It will also ask about prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking.
A staff member will check your temperature, blood pressure, pulse, height and weight. In some cases, a small blood sample may be taken to check protein and hemoglobin levels.
Assessment for Signs of Intoxication
The staff is trained to look for visible signs of intoxication or drug use. If you show signs such as slurred speech, impaired coordination, dilated pupils, or strange behavior, you will not be allowed to donate.
Review of Medications
The staff will review the medications you are taking to ensure there are no conflicts with plasma donation. Certain prescription drugs may disqualify you temporarily or permanently.
Random Drug Testing
While not common, some plasma centers may perform random drug testing on a small percentage of donors. This is usually done through a urine sample.
If you pass the screening process, you will then be able to begin donating plasma. You will need to go through the screening process each time you visit a new plasma donation center. However, at centers where you are already an established donor, you will generally not need to complete the full screening process again.
Policies on Drug and Alcohol Use
Plasma centers want to ensure they collect plasma only from healthy, eligible donors. For this reason, they have policies restricting donors who use drugs, take certain medications, or drink alcohol excessively.
Intravenous Drug Use
People who have ever injected recreational drugs intravenously are permanently deferred from donating plasma. This is due to the risk of transmitting infections through the donated plasma.
As mentioned above, some prescription medications may make you temporarily or permanently ineligible to donate plasma. Medications that affect blood clotting, like blood thinners or anticoagulants, are commonly restricted. The staff will discuss your medications with you during screening.
Marijuana is one drug that does not necessarily disqualify you from donating plasma. As long as you are not under the influence while donating, and you meet all other criteria, marijuana use is not an automatic reason for deferral.
You cannot donate plasma if you are noticeably intoxicated from alcohol. The staff will check for signs of intoxication and will not allow you to donate if impaired. However, consumption of alcohol in moderation outside of donation times is generally not a disqualifier.
Why Drug Testing is Uncommon
Many plasma donors are curious why centers do not perform drug tests on all potential donors. There are a few reasons for this:
- Cost – Drug testing every single donor at every visit would be extremely costly for the plasma centers. The screening process in place catches most individuals who are unsuitable to donate.
- Low Risk – Intravenous drug use poses the highest contamination risk. Routine questioning effectively screens out IV drug users. Other recreational drugs do not tend to pose a major threat to the blood supply.
- Deterrent to Donors – Mandatory drug testing could deter eligible donors and reduce the donor pool. Plasma donations are voluntary, so policies that discourage donors are avoided.
- State Laws – Some states restrict mandatory blood/plasma donor drug testing without probable cause. Centers must comply with laws in the states where they operate.
For these reasons, plasma centers rely on the medical history questionnaire, physical evaluation, and staff observation as the primary ways to assess donor eligibility. Random drug testing or testing upon probable cause is occasionally done, but routine tests on all donors are uncommon.
Are There Any Exceptions?
While most plasma donation centers do not drug test, there are some exceptions to be aware of:
- Some centers are now requiring pre-donation Rapid Response mouth swab drug tests in certain states. These detect recent use of 5 common illegal drugs.
- Plasma centers in prison/correctional facilities may require donors to take urine drug tests. This is due to the high risk of intravenous drug use.
- If staff observes signs of intoxication, they may require a drug test before allowing you to donate. This depends on the policies of the particular center.
- Certain specialty plasma donation programs, such as those collecting plasma for rare antibodies, may require additional testing.
So while routine drug testing is uncommon at most plasma donation centers today, exceptions apply in certain situations. If mandatory drug testing is against your values, you may want to ask about the center’s policies before beginning the process to donate. An informed decision will help you choose the option you are most comfortable with.
Can You Donate Plasma After Using Marijuana?
Marijuana’s legal status has changed in many states in recent years. However, it remains illegal at the federal level in the U.S. This sometimes causes confusion around whether marijuana use affects plasma donation eligibility. Here are some key points:
- Marijuana is not on the FDA’s list of medications that automatically disqualify you from donating plasma.
- Being under the influence of marijuana at the time of donation is prohibited. The staff will not allow you to donate if you appear impaired.
- Recent use of marijuana does not necessarily prohibit you from donating. But it’s recommended you refrain from use at least 24 hours prior to your donation time.
- Frequent or habitual use of marijuana may result in deferral, as it can affect protein levels in plasma. But infrequent recreational use does not automatically make you ineligible.
- State laws on marijuana use do not change the FDA eligibility requirements for plasma donation. Federal law takes precedence.
In summary, donating plasma after using marijuana is not directly prohibited. But showing signs of impairment or chronic heavy use can result in deferral. Moderation is key if you wish to donate plasma.
The Bottom Line
Plasma donation provides an essential medical resource to help save lives. The stringent screening process at plasma centers aims to protect both donors and recipients. Routine drug testing of all donors is uncommon for practical reasons. However, centers thoroughly assess each individual to ensure only eligible donors contribute to the blood supply. Being honest on questionnaires and avoiding plasma donation while intoxicated are important ways to meet eligibility requirements. With the proper precautions, donation can be a safe and rewarding experience.