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, there are safeguards to help employers prevent a job applicant or employee who uses drugs from cheating or altering a drug test, and thus undermining the benefits of their drug testing program. Here is an arsenal of options that can help employers and collector to thwart the efforts of drug test cheaters.
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, websites, and other sources of information that offer to help people successfully pass a drug test they should be failing.
1 – Dilution
In the dilution method, an individual must consume large amounts of liquid prior to the collection of a urine specimen. The liquid is usually water and perhaps mixed with a “cleansing or flushing” product followed often 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 test specimen before making a hiring decision.
2 – Adulterant
With the adulterant method, an individual adds something to the urine specimen in the privacy of the bathroom. This method requires the donor to smuggle the adulterant into the restroom where the urine 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.
3 – Substitution
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.
Specimen Validity Testing (SVT)
Specimen validity testing from Quest Diagnostics offers a way to keep drugs, and the substances that can alter drug test results, out of the workplace. With specimen validity testing, a laboratory can help ensure the integrity of the urine drug test by measuring pH, creatinine, and specific gravity (when indicated) and testing for adulterants that may be added to the urine specimen. The test results are provided to the Medical Review Officer or the customer for interpretation.
Drug testing policy
Every drug-free workplace policy should prohibit any attempt to adulterate or substitute a drug test specimen and articulate the consequences for cheating. Use clear language and be direct and to the point. 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.”
Observed drug test 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.
Drug test collection precautions
What else can employers and 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 of the restroom
- Read the temperature of all urine specimens immediately after voiding (often when a foreign substance is added to urine it will affect the specimen’s temperature, it likely has been tampered with).
Oral fluid drug 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. Laboratory-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.
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 negative drug test result. As long as there are drug tests, there will individuals who try to cheat drug tests.
Written by guest contributor Bill Current, Current Consulting Group, LLC
Updated May 4, 2021
*This blog post does not contain legal advice, and advises the reader to consult with their attorney on legal issues, including state laws regarding workplace alcohol and drug testing programs.