The verb “adulterate” is defined as “rendering something poorer in quality by adding another substance, typically an inferior one.” This activity is illicit where drug testing is concerned, as the process of tampering with a drug test sample can alter the results, rendering them invalid and ineffectual. To reduce or eliminate adulterants in drug testing at your organization, you will need to combat it from both sides: prevention before the fact and detection afterwards. In addition, it never hurts to understand how people try to tamper with drug test results, as their methods can guide your strategies for prevention and detection.
Substitutes and Adulterants in Drug Testing
Methods of Adulteration/Substitution
Although some drug abusers implement creative strategies in an attempt to tamper with their drug testing specimens, many stick with three common methods: (1) substituting the specimen with one that they know to be clean, (2) ingesting large amounts of fluid or compounds to dilute the sample or interfere with the process, or (3) adding adulterants directly to the specimen.
How to Detect Adulterants in Drug Testing
- Check the temperature. The most effective way to detect adulteration or substitution is to check the temperature of the sample. Within four minutes of collection, the temperature of the urine should be somewhere in the range of 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher or lower temperatures indicate that adulteration or substitution has likely occurred.
- Assess the odor. Some adulterants have a strong scent. For example, rubbing alcohol, soap, bleach, and perfume can easily be detected by nose.
- Perform a visual inspection. Some adulterants will affect the look of the sample. For example, soap can create bubbles and solid adulterants may leave a residue.
- Test the specific gravity. A sample of urine should have a specific gravity between 1.003 and 1.035. If the specimen’s specific gravity is lower than that, it may be diluted. If it is higher, it may include a dissolved solid like sodium chloride or sodium bicarbonate.
- Measure the pH. Urine’s pH should be between 3 and 11. If a pH measures outside of this reference range, tampering has likely occurred.
- Check the validity. Finally, to ensure that the substance is unadulterated urine, you can also use a validity test, which tests the specimen’s creatinine (a waste product produced by the body), oxidizing agents, specific gravity, and pH.
Preventing Adulterants in Drug Testing
To prevent specimen adulteration or substitution from occurring during your drug testing procedure, consider employing some of the following techniques:
- Don’t announce random drug tests in advance.
- Ask donors to place personal items in a secure box outside of the testing area (purses, jackets, hats, etc).
- Secure the collection site and have the process monitored.
- Require donors to wash their hands beforehand.
- Secure all water sources and place a coloring agent in the commode.
- Inspect the restroom for potential adulterants, including soaps and cleaning powders.
- Use an on-site drug-testing program to eliminate transportation time, so donors do not have an opportunity to “prepare” for the test before arrival at the testing facility. On-site testing also reduces the amount of time between the announcement of the test and the test itself.
If you’re looking to implement a drug-free workplace through efficient, adulterant-free drug testing, contact Employee Screening Services. Based in Springfield, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri, and Indianapolis, Indiana, we offer customized solutions to make drug testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and trained collection providers allows ESS to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help you effectively eliminate adulterants in drug testing procedures at your workplace.