How Some Job Candidates Try to Beat a Pre-Employment Drug Test

If employees have drugs in the system, can they really beat a drug test?

Cheating a drug test is getting tougher. In large part, that's because specimen collection and lab testing techniques are getting better.

There are three primary ways to "try" to fool a drug Test: Dilution, Substitution, and Adulteration.

1. Diluting a urine sample:

A "dilute specimen" is a urine sample that has a higher than average water content. The goal when diluting a sample is to minimize the drug levels visible in urine. Laboratories have specific cut-off points where, even if the drug is detected, it will not be marked as a positive result because there is very little in the sample.

Unintentional dilution is fairly common. When a test applicant consumes excessive amounts of fluid, the concentration of urine will subsequently become dilute. This can be abused by intentionally over-consuming large quantities of water before a drug test. This will lower drug ratios in the urine. Unfortunately for cheaters, this does not guarantee a negative result, and the laboratory will immediately detect the diluted sample.

The malicious form of dilution is adding pure water directly to the urine sample. This is the reason drug testing collection sites add dye to their toilets and shut off faucets. This is also very easy to detect.

2. Substituting your urine:

This is the only method of cheating a drug test that has a consistent rate of success. Substituting a urine sample is when the donor provides urine that did not originate from his or her body. The most popular form of this is urine from concentrate. Powdered urine can be purchased online in packets, and then mixed with water to form urine. Liquid urine, synthetic urine, and urine from another person are also commonly used.

The biggest challenge in using substitute urine is keeping the urine at the correct temperature. Providing a trained collector with a cold (or hot) sample will immediately flag the employees and force them to retest. Chemical pocket warmers are commonly used to keep hidden urine warm. However, they usually make the urine too hot or not hot enough to pass the temperature test. Finally, a trained collector is going to find the vial of bogus urine the employee brought in, no matter where it was hidden.

3. Adulterating a sample:

An adulterated specimen is a urine sample that has been tampered with. Adding certain chemicals to a urine sample will either mask the presence of drugs or interfere with the laboratory equipment. These chemicals are also easily detected by the lab, and the specimen will be flagged as adulterated.

Common chemicals used for doping samples are soap, salt, bleach, and eye drops.

Other methods:

  • Commercial screens, marketed everywhere, like Goldenseal, QuickKlean, or Mary Jane Super Clean 13. These products do little more than dilute or adulterate a sample. Any of them will flag the urine sample at the lab as tampered-with.

  • Drinking vinegar. It lowers the pH of urine, giving the lab evidence of tampering. Drinking enough to sufficiently mask a sample also causes violent diarrhea.

4 Myths!

  1. Taking creatine will raise creatinine levels.

    • Creatinine is one of the tested parameters when identifying diluted urine. A common myth is that taking creatine or eating red meat will boost the creatinine in the urine. This is a false assumption and has no effect.

  1. Dog urine can be substituted to pass a drug test.

    • The lab will immediately flag this. Animal urine is completely detectable.

  1. Stealing the specimen from the lab.

    • We have overheard daring drug test applicants saying that stealing the sample from the lab will prevent them from processing the results. The theory being that labs would never admit they lost a specimen, so they would report the test as negative, and the candidate would get hired anyway. This is not the case.

  1. Increasing your metabolism.

    • This rumor says that raising the metabolism will reduce the amount of time a drug can be detected in the system, and eating a high-calorie diet and starting an intense exercise program will do the same. These are both incorrect.

Four ways drug test cheaters are ultimately caught:

1. At the collection site:

While lab technology can now identify adulterated samples and other attempts at cheating drug tests, safeguards also exist at the urine specimen collection site, whether it's at a clinic or at the job-site.

For example, donors must present a photo ID. They must wash their hands before entering the collection room to reduce the risk of smuggling substances under their fingernails or on their hands. They are not allowed in the bathroom with coats, purses, bags, or other objects that may be used to conceal an adulterant. Bulky sweaters are removed. Pockets must be emptied, pant legs lifted to view socks and ensure nothing hidden. If wearing boots, they are removed and turned upside down to “empty”. Hats must be removed. Soaps, lotions and other possible adulterants are removed from the bathroom and sink water is turned off. Toilet water is tinted blue so it can't be used to dilute a sample. Donors are allowed a maximum of four minutes to exit with a proper specimen. Collection cup for sample has a temperature gage for the collector to check and ensure the donor’s sample is within proper human range.

2. At the laboratory:

Labs have greatly improved their methods in detecting those specimens that have been tampered with by the donor.

Cheating drug tests by adulterating urine samples, or altering a specimen by changing its concentration, is a common practice that drug abusers use to hide the presence of drugs in their system. Previously, some abusers were able to pass a drug test by using one of these strategies. But new lab technologies are now detecting drugs in samples that were altered and untestable before. Today, lab tests measuring specific gravity, pH, creatinine levels, and temperature are determining positive and negative results - and attempts at cheating drug tests - more accurately than ever.

Lab tests today can often indicate that the sample is not from the donor. In a somewhat humorous case, a man substituted his sample with that of his wife. When the specimen failed the temperature test, subsequent lab testing indicated he was pregnant.

Adulterated samples will throw pH levels off or exhibit substances not normally found in urine. In cases where a definite positive or negative result cannot be determined, donors may be required to resubmit a sample under direct-observation supervision. New lab testing methods now easily determine the presence of nitrites, such as the masking agent found in Klear®. Once nitrites are detected, further testing removes the masking effect to discover which drugs are present. Laboratories are constantly updating testing methods as new adulterant products enter the market.

3. By the MRO:

A Medical Review Officer (MRO) will contact donors with “positive” lab results. If a donor is claiming they are taking a “legitimately prescribed” drug, the MRO will make them prove it. One or more photos of the drug container (to include their name, date of prescription, dosage prescribed) are required. If not supplied, or if not confirming legitimacy, MRO will report the donor as positive for illicit drugs. If Mr. Smith sends pictures of Mrs. Smith’s medication, and “that” is the drug Mr. Smith is taking, then the MRO will report him as positive for illicit drugs. Additionally, Mr. Smith may also be guilty of a felony for taking drugs not prescribed to him!

4. Companies using onsite testing:

“Onsite” specimen collections - unannounced - are the most effective way to catch would-be cheaters. A trained Drug Test Technician (DTT) visits their offices, warehouse, manufacturing plant, or other locations and performs the drug test urine specimen collections right there, while employees are on the job.

In the case of onsite collections, the donor is required to report immediately and directly to the Drug Test Technician (DTT) when notified of their drug test. The donor is not permitted to first go to the locker room, run down the hall, or get something out of their car. These are often-used ploys to enable a cheater to retrieve adulterants or substitutes they have “stored” before seeing the DTT and providing their specimen. So then: “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide!

Getting caught:

Under U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT aka, DOT) regulations, DOT-covered employees whose sample is determined to be tampered with are automatically reported as positive on their drug test, and they must be immediately removed from their positions by their employer. Non-DOT employees are not subject to the same regulation; however, may still be released from their duties depending on the employer's company drug policy.

This year, approximately 2,200,000 drug test results will come back from the labs reported as positive for one or more drugs. A greater percentage of those this year than last year will be from cheaters who tried to pass and were unsuccessful. Attempted cheaters will be caught during the specimen collection process, or they will be discovered by the lab. As specimen collection procedures and lab analysis technology improves, it will be an even greater percentage who are caught trying to beat a drug test year after year.

Bottom line: if your employee or potential employee wants to pass a drug test, the only way to do so is by staying drug-free.

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