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5 Ways Employees Cheat Drug Tests and Why They Don’t Work

cheating drug tests

Employers have to deal with many matters on and off the clock, including drug abuse in the workplace. On top of dealing with that issue, they also must address another that comes with it—employees’ and prospective employees’ efforts to cheat the drug test.

Companies certainly have their reasons for using drug tests. The nation’s workforce does include people who use and misuse substances, and some of them are struggling with substance abuse disorders while gainfully employed.

Data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) show that of the 22.4 million people age 18 and older who were illicit drug users in 2013, 15.4 million, or 68.9 percent, held a part-time or full-time job.

Quest Diagnostics, which conducts workplace drug tests, reported in May 2017 that drug use in the U.S. workforce reached its highest positivity rate in 12 years after it reviewed 10 million workforce drug test results. According to its press release, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine use is up among American workers.

Why Companies Test for Drugs

Keeping employees safe while they are at work and reducing the number of workers’ compensation claims are some reasons employers use drug tests. Workplace drug abuse can:

  • Affect employee morale
  • Damage a company’s reputation or public image
  • Lower productivity
  • Cut into company profits

With all of these things at risk, it is understandable why businesses use drug tests to get a heads-up on potential drug-use behaviors workers and prospective employees may have. Although testing blood, hair, and oral fluid for drugs is one way to find out who’s who and who’s doing what, the most relied upon drug-testing method is the urine sample.

The five-panel urine test is commonly used to look for the presence of marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), and amphetamines. Employers may also opt to use the test to look for alcohol, MDMA (ecstasy), barbiturates, propoxyphene, and benzodiazepines.

Here are five ways employees attempt to cheat drug tests. The first three listed here are the most common.

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1. They Dilute Urine Samples

People who drink large amounts of fluids right before taking a drug test likely will turn in a diluted urine sample, which will have a higher-than-average level of water content. This is typically done to diminish visible drug levels in the urine. If any drug content is detected in a diluted sample, it likely will be a small amount, and it won’t be marked as a positive result because there is little of the substance present, according to Another dilution method is to add water directly to the urine sample after it is collected.

While water is commonly used for this method, there are other products that can be mixed with other products.

People who use this method to cheat the drug test should not count on a negative test result. Laboratories can detect diluted samples and require the subject to retest. Also, some testing laboratories shut down access to their faucets and add dye to their toilets to catch people who use water to their drug samples, writes

2. They Substitute Urine Samples

Some people attempt to cheat drug tests by submitting a urine sample that did not come from their bodies. According to OHS Health & Safety Services Inc., people who try this method may use liquid urine, synthetic urine, or urine that belongs to someone or something else, such as an animal, just to pass the test. Those who are diligent about going undetected may buy powdered urine packets online and then mix the contents with water.

It is difficult to keep substitute urine samples at the right temperature. However, those determined to do so may use devices to keep the specimen warm. They may also keep the sample warm by holding it close to their bodies in an armpit or the groin area.

3. They Adulterate Urine Samples

Urine samples that have been tampered with are called “adulterated specimen.” Some would-be drug testers attempt to pass off a sample that contains chemicals that have been added to either hide the presence of drugs or affect the equipment used in laboratory drug testing. Some of these chemicals include bleach, salt, soap, eye drops, peroxide, among others. According to the AACC, “Both collection sites and laboratories have at their disposal a number of mechanisms to detect potentially invalid specimens.” But the AACC says specimen integrity testing doesn’t detect all adulterants, such as Visine eye drops, isopropanol, and other urinary adulterants.

4. They Delay the Test to Allow for the Drug to Clear their System

Some employees or prospective employees who are up for a drug screening may just try to wait it out and delay taking the test until the drug(s) leaves their systems. Many factors come into play here, including the kind of drug that was taken and how much of it was taken. Some substances clear the system faster than others. However, body height, weight, age, metabolism, and family history, among other factors, also affect how long a substance hangs around and whether a drug test will detect it in a person’s urine. Signs of past drug use can last for a few days or a few weeks.

5. They Try Other Methods that Promise to Detox the Body’s System of Drug Use

Other attempts to cheat drug tests include taking various products and foods and before turning over the urine for examination. The list of “home remedies” runs long and includes everything from eating fiber and certain herbs, such as red clover and burdock root, to drinking detox herbal teas or liquids that act as diuretics to flush out toxins left behind after drug use. These include apple cider vinegar and cranberry juice among others.

Some people opt to use “commercial screens,” such as GoldenSeal, Mary Jane Super Clean, or QuickKlean to “clean” their urine sample, but it has been advised that if these are found, the sample will be flagged. An online search for ways to cheat employer-given drug tests turns up thousands of results. People will go to great lengths to avoid a positive result on a drug test, and some will be successful in their attempts.

This is just one reason some advise employers to use random drug screenings and test new hires after they join the team.

Drug tests can help businesses find employees who cheat drug tests and take action, including helping them find substance abuse treatment, if needed, through an employee assistance program (EAP).

Are You Suffering From Substance Abuse Addiction?

If you or someone you know is involved in recreational substance abuse or can’t seem to stop misusing drugs and alcohol, get help today. The addiction specialists at Ocean Breeze Recovery will help point you toward therapies and counseling methods tailored to your needs. Call (866) 563-0736 or contact us online to discuss your options today.


Stephanie T.

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