Thwarting Drug Test Cheaters

by Aaron Atkinson on January 4, 2011

Employers who drug test their applicants and employees depend on the results of these tests to help ensure safer, more productive, drug free workplaces. With this in mind, employers must do everything possible to prevent drug-abusing workers and job applicants from successfully altering test results and thus undermining the benefits of their drug testing program. The information below lays out the arsenal of options that can help employers to thwart the efforts of drug test cheaters.

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How Do Cheaters Cheat?

There are three methods of cheating on a urine drug test—dilution, adulteration and substitution. With each method there are countless products, advice lines, websites and other sources of information that offer to help people successfully pass a drug test they should be failing.

In the dilution method the user must consume large amounts of liquid prior to the collection of a urine sample. The liquid is usually water… perhaps with a “cleansing”/”flushing” product mixed in and often followed by the consumption of more water. This is done to dilute the drug concentration in the urine specimen. And while a water-diluted urine specimen does not automatically mean the individual is a drug user or a “cheater”, some employers require the collection of a second specimen before making a hiring decision.

With the adulterant method the donor adds something to the urine specimen, in the privacy of the bathroom. This method requires the donor to smuggle the adulterant into the stall where the specimen will be voided. Often the individual will hide it inside their underclothing or somewhere else on their body.  Common household products that have been used as adulterants include bleach, vinegar, juices, eye drops, dish soap, and even drain cleaners. There are also a variety of commercial products that claim to mask the presence of drugs in a person’s urine.

The substitution method is the process of substituting one person’s urine with that of someone (or something) else’s. Some people have even resorted to injecting someone else’s urine directly into their bladder. Synthetic urine or replacement urine is often available on the Internet though there are countless examples of donors using the urine of a family member or friend.

Fighting Back

Specimen Validity Testing

Quest Diagnostics TestSureTM adulterant testing offers a way to keep drugs, and the substances that can alter test results, out of the workplace. When you request TestSureTM, your specimen will be screened for a variety of adulterant compounds by using state-of-the-art secondary testing methods. The results are provided to the medical review officer or the customer for interpretation.

Policies

Every drug-free workplace policy should prohibit any attempt to adulterate or substitute a drug test sample and clearly articulate the consequences for cheating. Consider adding language such as the following:

“Switching, tampering with or adulterating any specimen or sample collected under the Company’s policy for the purpose of testing for drugs, or attempting to do so, or assisting another in an attempt to do so, is prohibited. Any such effort will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

Some state laws consider drug cheating a crime. Check with all applicable state laws prior to revising your drug testing policy.

Observed Collections

Observed collections are another way to fight drug test cheating. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires collections to be observed in myriad circumstances, including in the case of return to duty and follow-up tests. Some state laws do not permit observed collections for non-DOT collections. Check all applicable state laws before implementing an observed collection policy.

Collection Precautions

What else can employers/collectors do?

  • ensure that the collection space is secure,
  • add colored dye to toilet water in the donor stalls,
  • turn off running water during the collection process,
  • ask donors to leave outer clothing such as coats and jackets outside the stall, and
  • read the temperature of all samples immediately after voiding (often when a foreign substance is added to urine it will affect the sample’s temperature… if it’s too low or high, it likely has been tampered with).

Oral Fluid Testing

Another way to combat cheating on urine drug tests is to conduct oral fluid testing. While website after website will offer advice on how to beat a urine test it’s almost impossible to find information on how to beat an oral fluid test. Lab-based oral fluid testing, in particular, has proven to be a reliable and accurate testing method and, to date, has not been scientifically proven to be susceptible to standard cheating practices and products, which are geared toward urine testing.

Conclusion

Some people will try almost anything to beat a drug test. Do yourself a favor and visit some of the websites that offer advice and/or sell products that promise would-be cheaters a safe drug test result, create a solid workplace drug testing policy, and finally, consider adding TestSureTM to your testing regimen as a way to help ensure a valid and accurate drug test.

Written by guest contributor Bill Current.

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