It has been estimated that drug test cheating occurs on up to 5% of drug tests, perhaps more. If you search the web using the term “cheat your drug test”, virtually thousands of web sites will show. And, virtually all deal with how to cheat a urine drug test. There are relatively few on how to cheat specimens other than urine.
Drug abuse is a very real and prevalent part of our society and the workforce. Of the 22.4 million current illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2013, 68.9 percent were employed either full or part time.
How does one cheat on a drug test? There are 3 main ways:
- Dilution – The dilution method requires the user to consume large amounts of liquid prior to the drug test. Dilution affects urine testing because of the nature of what is tested in a urine specimen. The existence of the actual drug is not tested in a urine specimen. Rather, testing in urine tests for metabolites. Metabolites are what is excreted by the body after it has metabolized a particular drug.
- Substitution – The substitution method is just that… the substituting of one person’s urine with that of someone (or something) else’s.
- Adulteration – With the adulteration or additive method the user adds something to the urine, typically after the specimen has been voided.
Let’s quickly review the types of available specimens and some associated pros and cons on each:
- Hair – collection can sometimes be invasive and at least one inch is usually required. Can be less invasive than blood except if an individual is bald thus requiring the hair specimen to be collected from elsewhere on the body. A hair test can be expensive, up to $90. Applicable employment law allows taking action against an individual for “current” illegal drug use. A positive on a hair specimen for an illegal drug does not necessarily constitute current illegal drug use by the individual. It can take up to a week for an illegal drug to show in a hair specimen. And, you must monitor applicable state law. For example, in Maryland hair can be used as a specimen for testing for illegal drugs only on a pre-employment basis.
- Blood – definitely an invasive method to obtain a specimen. Obviously it is the hardest to substitute, adulterate and dilute. Blood specimens are just not that common in employment drug testing situations.
- Urine – obviously the most prevalent type of specimen. There has been more than 30 years of case law involving the testing methods of this type of specimen. Urine, however, is the easiest to dilute, substitute and adulterate. Does not necessarily detect recent use as time is required for the body to metabolize the drug and then have those metabolites show in the urine specimen.
- Oral Fluid (Saliva) – the easiest to collect and the hardest to cheat. Saliva mirrors any substances currently in the donor’s blood. Most effective at catching recent use of a drug. As long as the collection process is observed by a competent manager, dilution, substitution and adulteration is virtually impossible.
Want a real world example of the effectiveness of oral fluid drug testing? This case comes from the Area Office Supervisor office of the Iowa Department of Corrections. Using urine as the specimen for drug testing, 10% were positive and 5% were diluted. Using saliva as the specimen, collected and processed using the Intercept device, resulted in a positive rate of 24% with zero diluted specimens.
For purposes of this discussion, point of collection tests (instant) urine and instant saliva tests were not considered. Instant tests usually result in false negatives. We always recommend using a specimen that can be confirmed at a qualified laboratory using GC/MS technology. And we always recommend a Medical Review Officer (MRO) make the final determination of whether or not a specimen is positive for a particular type of drug. Using a qualified MRO is a best practice and is crucial to defending the results should the results be challenged.