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Drug Testing News

Lab director claims he can spot drug test cheaters


May 16, 2003

Norma Erickson has headed up the Marion County Probation Department’s drug testing laboratory since it opened April 30, 2001. She has been doing lab work for 30 years, mostly in hospitals. Erickson says she runs the facility like a clinic and treats every “client” who deposits a sample with respect.

Q: What is the most common method probationers use to try to fool their drug tests?
A: The most common thing they do is drink a lot of fluids. Our equipment can spot a diluted sample.

Q: Describe some of the more creative ways people try to cheat on their drug tests.
A: They'll strap something on around their waist, an I.V. bag full of clean urine, and try to get (the urine) in the cup without us noticing. They've brought in lemon squeeze bottles, medicine bottles, small liquor bottles. We even caught a guy trying to deposit someone else's urine through a 2-foot length of garden hose stuffed into his pants.

Q: How do you spot cheaters?
A: They're nervous, shaky and very chatty. They make unusual motions that aren't normal to the process.

Q: What is the best cure for a shy bladder?
A: Time. Everyone has to go eventually.

Q: Why do you do this work?
A: I feel I'm helping the courts and the officers keep the public safe. I'm helping the clients keep on track by not doing drugs.

Q: What substances do the people in your facility test for?
A: Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, PCP, opiates, benzodiazepines (Valium and Xanax), barbiturates, methadone, LSD and propoxyphene (Darvon and Darvocet).

Q: How do you treat the 375 people who are tested at your facility each day?
A: I'm not here to judge them. I don't want to know what they're here for. I just want to help them get that sample and comply with the court's order. We try to make an undignified situation as dignified as possible.