Drug Test Tampering: Methods and Myths

Fearing a positive result with significant consequences, participants are often willing to go to great lengths to thwart drug tests. They may embrace creative techniques or attempt to foil the results with newfangled technology. Drug test tampering (also known as adulteration) refers to the ingestion of a foreign substance or the addition of a foreign substance to a testing specimen to prevent the detection of drug use. Several different methods of adulteration exist, and there are also many myths surrounding drug test tampering. Today we’re separating fact from fiction.

Drug Test Tampering

Common Tampering Techniques

People attempt to “cheat” or “beat” drug tests in a variety of ways. Common tampering techniques include all of the following:

  • Household Products: To change the pH of their urine and prevent drug detection, a participant might add a household cleaning product to the specimen. Popular choices include acid, ammonia, lye, vinegar, and bleach. These products may interfere with the initial (screening) test.
  • Substitution: A participant might substitute a urine specimen with lemonade, soft drinks, sports drinks, water, or someone else’s urine. Another popular choice for substitution is powdered urine, which donors mix with water. 
  • Dilution: To dilute their urine specimen, hoping to mask or destroy evidence of drug use, participants might consume large quantities of lemonade, soft drinks, sports drinks, or water. Sometimes this happens unintentionally. A diluted sample does not guarantee a negative test result; the lab will detect the diluted sample. In some cases, a participant will add a liquid substance directly to the urine specimen.
  • Chemical Additives: Some participants add chemicals to the specimen after collection. These include glutaraldehyde (UrinAid), nitrites (Klear™ Whizzies), chromates (Pyridine, Urine Luck™ Instant Clean ADD-IT-ive), and halogens. Donors can purchase all of these products online. Glutaraldehyde affects the drugs tested in the initial (screening) test. Nitrites, chromates, halogens, and other oxidizing adulterants may negate the initial and/or confirmatory tests for marijuana and morphine/heroin.
  • Prescription Drugs: Some prescription drugs that are non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory will interfere with the initial (screening) test. For example, Tolectin® can impact a participant’s test results.

Although common, these tampering techniques are ineffective due to highly trained technicians and stringent lab testing.

Tampering Myths

Many myths have been born over the years as people attempt to beat drug tests and share ideas. The list below contains some of the most common myths. Although some seem plausible in theory, they do not work in practice.

  • Taking Creatine to Raise Creatinine Levels: Creatinine, a compound produced by the metabolism of creatine, is one of the parameters tested when identifying diluted urine. A common myth is that ingesting creatine (as a supplement or with a food high in creatine like red meat or fish) will boost the amount of creatinine in the urine. This is a false assumption. In fact, it has no effect.
  • Substituting a Urine Specimen with Dog Urine: If unable to secure clean urine from a human, someone attempting adulteration might substitute their own urine with dog urine. However, this will not work; the lab will immediately flag the specimen.
  • Stealing Your Specimen from the Lab: Some daring applicants might attempt to steal a sample from a laboratory so that the lab can’t process it. They theorize that instead of reporting a lost specimen, the lab will simply report the test as negative. Not only is this a false assumption, but you could also be arrested for burglary if you put the plan into action.
  • Increasing Your Metabolism: Rumor has it that raising your metabolism will reduce the amount of time a drug can be detected in your system. Some people attempt to do this by eating a high-calorie diet or starting an intense exercise program. However, these are both myths.

How Can We Detect Adulterants?

Facilities and laboratories use several methods to deter and detect drug test tampering. If you try to cheat the system, you could be caught at the collection site or the laboratory. Labs update their testing methods regularly, embracing new technologies that allow for more stringent testing. In addition, if the lab cannot definitively conclude that a specimen tests positive or negative, the donor may be required to resubmit a sample under supervision.

Adulterants affect specimens in a variety of ways, so many labs can detect tampering through a quick examination or test. For example, they may check the temperature of the sample, the odor, the appearance, the specific gravity, and/or the pH. They may also conduct a validity test, which takes the specimen’s creatinine, oxidizing agents, specific gravity, and pH into account. Donors attempting to cheat the test can also be caught or deterred before the collection procedure. For example, at many collection sites, the donor must present a photo ID and wash his or her hands before entering the collection room. Donors are not allowed to bring in coats, purses, or bags. The manager of the collection site might remove potential adulterants from the space and tint the toilet water blue. Finally, he or she may impose a time limit to prevent tampering.

When searching for a company to provide drug and alcohol screening services, be sure to ask about the methods they use to safeguard the integrity of testing results. At Tomo, our highly skilled technicians are trained to take all necessary precautions to prevent the adulteration of specimens.

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Hoping to pass a drug test? Drug test tampering is not your best bet. There is only one way to test negative that is 100% guaranteed: live a 100% drug-free lifestyle.

If you’re looking to implement a drug-free workplace through pre-employment or random drug and alcohol testing, contact Tomo Drug Testing. Based in Springfield (MO), St. Louis (MO), Kansas City (MO), Indianapolis (IN), and Evansville (IN), we offer customized solutions to make drug testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and onsite providers allows Tomo to be available anytime, anywhere. We also provide education sessions for DOT employers and employees. For a free needs analysis or more information, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help!