Combatting Cheating in Urine Drug Testing

by Dr. Barry Sample on July 18, 2016

urine-drug-testingAt Quest Diagnostics, we take the issue of subversion of the drug testing process very seriously. We continue to be pioneers in specimen validity testing (SVT) – a screening to help ensure the integrity of the urine specimen and drug test. We first patented our screening technology for oxidizing adulterants in 2000 and testified before Congress in 2005 on “Products that Claim to Prevent Detection of Certain Substances by Drug Testing Programs.” Today, we remain one of the few SAMHSA-certified laboratories capable of performing oxidizing adulterant identification.

One method by which donors attempt to undermine the integrity of the drug testing process is by substituting their urine with synthetic urine. Synthetic urine is essentially water that has been fortified with various constituents such as creatinine, salts, and yellow coloring in an effort to make a specimen appear to be normal human urine and pass standard tests of specimen validity. Over time, additional chemical tests of specimen validity have been proposed and, in limited cases, used by drug testing laboratories. However, manufacturers of synthetic urine have responded by adding these additional constituents to their products in an effort to defeat these additional SVT tests.

Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

  • It’s important to work with a drug testing provider that performs specimen validity testing in a certified laboratory. These labs are inspected on regular intervals throughout the year as well as participate in proficiency testing (PT) programs, which include challenges to the laboratory’s ability to perform routine specimen validity testing accurately. Unfortunately, the cheating industry continues to develop products and systems that may be undetectable in standard urine drug tests. As such, our scientific experts continue to monitor new generations of products and adjust accordingly.
  • There is no industry consensus or regulatory standard for classifying a urine specimen as “synthetic” or “substituted” when there are abnormally low levels of these other urinary constituents.
  • Professional collectors follow precise protocols and are trained to identify suspicious or unusual activities during the drug test collection process such as a urine sample that is not within the appropriate temperature range or a donor who exceeds a reasonable time limit while using the restroom.
  • If synthetic urine can be successfully substituted for real urine in the privacy of the collection site restroom, unfortunately there is often little that can be done to prevent the substitution of real, human urine that is free of drugs and drug metabolites. Again, this reinforces the need for highly trained, professional collectors who are qualified and capable of helping to ensure a legitimate, subversion-free specimen collection experience.

Consider all drug testing specimen types
Potential subversion of the urine drug testing process is one reason that alternative specimens – hair and oral fluid – are being considered for federally-regulated drug testing programs. Because hair and oral fluid collections are observed, the possibility of subversion is also significantly reduced. Recent data from the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ suggests the effectiveness of oral fluid in detecting drug use – even though it is generally acknowledged that it has a slightly shorter window of detection (depending on the drug/metabolite) – as compared to urine.

In regards to the collection of oral fluid specimens, the Proposed Federal Oral Fluid Mandatory Guidelines issued in May 2015 propose equivalent standards for oral fluid collections as urine collections (e.g., Sections 5.1, 5.2, and 8.1). While many, but not all, private sector employers “self-collect” oral fluid, this is not a uniform process and some employers prefer that oral fluid collection be separated from the hiring manager or supervisor as the proposed Federal guidelines envisage. Whether the collection is observed or not, our position is that SVT remains a critical component of the oral fluid testing process to ensure an adequate and proper collection.

In summary, technology alone cannot solve the issue of subversion of the urine drug testing process. Combining a variety of tools and tactics is the best strategy to help thwart drug test cheaters and maintain drug-free, safe, and productive workplaces. Employers should select a provider who offers multiple drug test specimen types, specimen validity testing, and collections performed by well-trained, professional collectors.

For definitions of terms related to specimen validity testing, refer to the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs and the Medical Review Officer Manual for Federal Agency Workplace Drug Testing Programs.

To learn more about drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.

Increased Drug Use Fuels Global Drug Testing Market

by Steve Beller on July 14, 2016

drug testingDrug use continues to make headlines, from the rise in marijuana use, to the recently publicized opioid epidemic and the continued danger posed by synthetic drugs. Less publicized is the impact of drug abuse on companies and society, and the search for ways to combat it. One solution that more policy-makers, employers and individuals are turning to as a deterrent to drug use is drug testing.

A recent study conducted by P&S Market Research looked at the development, growth and demand of the drug testing market. Findings reveal that the global drug testing market is growing and is expected to continue to grow significantly (9.6 percent CAGR 2016-2022). The authors of the survey believe the growth rate is related to the expanded availability of drugs, increased drug consumption, and broadened efforts to decrease traffic accidents associated with drug use. The study further surmises that, “the global increase in road accidents and death rates due to drug consumption is expected to increase the demand of drugs of abuse testing, which will, in turn, help in reducing the potential number of incidences and loss of life.” Additionally, technological advancements in the development of drug testing solutions with improved analytical capabilities are increasing the availability and use of testing.

The P&S research supports findings from other studies which also look at global drug use. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UDOC) World Drug Report 2016, “an estimated 1 in 20 adults, or a quarter of a billion people between the ages of 15 and 64 years, used at least one drug in 2014.” Additionally, across the world, “roughly 200,000 people lose their lives each year to causes attributed to drug use.”

Quest Diagnostics is a leader in both the domestic and international drug testing markets to which we provide access to a variety of drug testing options and a broad network of collection sites.

For more information about why drug testing is beneficial, visit our website or contact us online.

Advantages of Oral Fluid Drug Testing

July 11, 2016 Oral Fluid Testing

Implementing an effective drug testing program can sometimes prove to be challenging. Because laboratory-based urine drug testing is the most widely used testing method, it leads some employers to believe it’s the safest bet. At Quest Diagnostics, we are committed to offering a comprehensive selection of workplace drug testing solutions which include oral fluid and hair […]

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Simple and Seamless Clinical Testing

July 7, 2016 National Clinical Testing

Preventative health checks, workplace wellness screenings, and first-to-market tests for viruses like H1N1 and Zika can all be performed at Quest Diagnostics laboratories. For the vast majority of patient, physician and employer encounters with Quest, doing business with us is as simple as setting up an account and leveraging a local Patient Service Center and […]

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Detecting Drug Abuse Among Medical Professionals

July 6, 2016 Urine Testing

The challenges associated with opioid abuse can impact anyone regardless of gender, age, race, or job position. Perhaps surprisingly to some, that fact that some physicians struggle with substance abuse and addiction is not a new phenomenon. USA Today reported that more than 100,000 doctors, nurses, technicians and other healthcare professionals struggle with abuse or […]

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DEA Report Details Heroin Threat

July 1, 2016 Industry News

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) published the 2016 National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary on June 27, 2016, detailing the threat of heroin and opioid drug abuse in the United States. Heroin is now available in larger quantities, it is being used by a greater number of people, and it is causing an increasing number […]

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Online Customer Support

June 30, 2016 Online Solutions

We recently launched a new drug testing Customer Support webpage that provides easy-to-use links for some of the most common customer service inquiries we receive, such as obtaining statuses for drug tests, locating a nearby collection site, ordering supplies, and setting up accounts. By activating self-service solutions for clients who prefer to interact with us […]

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Fentanyl In the News

June 29, 2016 Urine Testing

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Used to treat pain, it is categorized as a Schedule II drug and carries a “black box warning” from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to call attention […]

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Ask the Experts: Effects of Hair Treatments on Drug Test Results

June 27, 2016 Ask the Experts

Question: Can products and treatments affect hair drug test results?  Some employers who use hair testing as part of their workplace drug testing program wonder if hair products – like shampoos, sprays, gels, coloring, bleaching, and perming – can have an impact on their test results. We asked Dr. Barry Sample, Director of Science and […]

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