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A three-pronged strategy to stay ahead of drug test cheaters

September 8, 2014
by Bill Current
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(Second of two parts)

The first part of this article examined the creative ways in which some individuals try to beat a drug test. In order to beat cheaters at their own game, it is important to know what you're looking for in terms of a urine sample that is not right. Labs primarily look at two things when confirming the validity of a urine specimen: creatinine, which is present in all urine; and specific gravity, the urine’s density.

A “dilute specimen” will have creatinine and specific gravity values that are lower than what normally would be found in human urine. A “substituted specimen” typically will have creatinine and specific gravity values that are either so diminished or so divergent that they are not consistent with regular human urine.

There are three main categories of actions designed to defeat the cheater: precautions, validity testing, and consequences.

Precautions can take place before, during and even after the donor voids a sample. The test administrator plays a key role in this process. This person's job is to ensure the dignity of the donor during the testing process, but also to guarantee the integrity of the sample that will be tested. This includes making it as difficult as possible for would-be cheaters to get away with cheating.

The point of collection offers the best place either to deter or uncover cheating. An alert test administrator will prevent a donor from adding something to a sample or presenting a sample that is outside the acceptable temperature range.

Test administrators should always:

  • Ensure that the collection takes place in a secured area.

  • Add colored dye to toilet water in the donor stalls.

  • Turn off running water (or hot water) while collections take place.

  • Require the donor to wash his or her hands prior to voiding the sample.

  • Ask the donor to leave outer clothing such as coats and jackets outside the stall.

  • Read the temperature of all samples immediately after voiding.

  • Depending on the circumstances, observe the voiding of the sample.

While these precautions may represent the common-sense approach to thwarting drug test cheaters, specimen validity testing offers more of a scientific approach. Validity testing seeks to detect if a specimen was diluted, adulterated or substituted. This test can take place at the lab or on-site by utilizing one of several commercially available screening devices.

The whole purpose of many cheating methods is to beat the science behind validity testing. The better websites that offer advice on how to beat a drug test often explain the science behind validity testing. This helps would-be cheaters know how to dilute and tamper with a urine sample to get it outside the drug detection cutoffs and still fall within the acceptable range of creatinine and specific gravity.

Fortunately, most cheaters know only what the websites tell them. When these individuals come up against a testing program that combines myriad precautions and validity testing with clear and stern consequences, they likely will meet their match. Regardless of the organization requiring the drug test (hospital, treatment center, sober living facility, etc.), when consequences are tied to any effort to cheat on a drug test the rate of cheating is likely to diminish. Whether the consequences include expulsion from a treatment program, loss of employment through a work-release program, or a return to incarceration, when donors are aware of the consequences they will think twice before attempting to adulterate or switch a sample.

Comparing testing methods

Urine testing is by far the most common method of testing for drugs. It has been around for decades and the science behind most urine testing methods is sound and legally defensible. But urine is particularly susceptible to drug test cheating. The vast majority of websites that offer products and advice on cheating focus almost exclusively on urine testing. Even at that, urine testing remains the clear leader when it comes to testing modalities, but there are alternatives to urine that present cheaters with a much more difficult challenge.

Phillip Dubois, executive vice president of Drugscan and chairman of the board of directors of the 1,500-member Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), points out, “All drug testing methods work when done right. It is really a question of choosing the method that is right for you and your organization. Hair and oral fluid drug testing may be a good fit where there is a significant concern about adulteration because they are more difficult to successfully cheat on than urine testing.”

Hair testing is a reliable method that offers a number of unique advantages. The window of detection, for example, is about 90 days. This offers a very wide look into a person's lifestyle. The collection of a specimen can be observed by both the donor and the administrator throughout the entire process. And while the method is not entirely adulteration-proof, cheating is much more difficult to pull off with hair testing. However, just like with urine, websites exist to offer products for sale that supposedly will cleanse the presence of drugs out of a hair sample.