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Drug Testing News
cleansers raise debate
April 6, 2003
Some teens who shop at health food stores aren't looking for
typical items such as soy milk, whole-wheat flour or
They come for products such as Stat and Naturally Klean,
shelling out $10 to $30 a bottle to join the thousands of
people who purchase drug cleansers each year.
Cindle Brewster says she thinks drug cleansers should be
Drug cleansers are supplements that claim to allow a drug user
to pass a drug test, usually within a four- to five-hour
window. The formulas are generally nontoxic herbal pills or
Drug cleansers are readily available in many health food
stores and from numerous Internet sources. ID is seldom
required, so they can be purchased with no questions asked.
Earlier this year, the Illinois General Assembly considered a
bill penalizing anyone found in possession of or using a drug
cleanser with a 12-month driver's license suspension, but it
died in committee.
"Most of the drug cleansers purport to have a special mixture
of herbs and/or compounds in them that actually mask, or
hopefully mask, the ability of the drug test to detect the
drug," said Dr. James Mowry, director of the Indiana Poison
Center. "Since most of them require you to drink large amounts
of water with them, their major action is to cause you to have
very diluted urine."
Since drug cleansers are sold strictly over-the-counter, their
safety has not been assessed.
"These are classified in most cases as nutritional
supplements, and those are not regulated by the Food and Drug
Administration. Unless they can prove that the nutritional
supplement is causing harm, (the FDA) can take no action,"
Experts are divided.
"There is no reliable study or any reputable study out looking
to see whether or not these actually work," Mowry said. "Most
of the information on the Internet is from places that are
selling these products. So they have a vested interest in
making sure that they sound like they work every time."
Carl Nicks, a counselor for Clarian Health's adolescent
chemical dependency program, agreed.
"It is very seldom that the herbal ways or the drug-cleansing
products work. The results come back as a diluted urine . . .
an indication that it has been tampered with," he said. "If by
chance you're in the legal system and your urine comes out
diluted, you're going to jail just like that."
Nevertheless, cleansers enjoy an underground popularity with
teens and adults who must take drug tests for school, sports
or work. Y-Press talked to some teens about drug cleanser
Cindle Brewster, a sophomore at New Buffalo High School in
Michigan, is a member of a community task force on drug
testing. Sara Romanowski, a junior at Lebanon High School,
wrote an editorial to the local paper after her school was
searched by drug-sniffing dogs. The girls had heard of drug
cleansers but did not know how they worked.
"I went to a popular search engine and I typed in 'drug
cleansers,' and it was readily available. Like the first site
that comes up, you can order any kind of pills, any kind of
potion that you want. If you send them 40 bucks, they'll send
you a kit on how to pass your drug test. And that's really
surprising," Sara said.
The public overall may be less aware of drug cleansers than
"I don't think parents are informed about it because most of
the parents aren't even aware that their kids are using the
drugs, so they're not gonna know about the drug cleansers,"
One thing that surprised everyone was the fact that drug
cleansers are virtually unregulated.
"I think the sale of drug cleansers to kids is ridiculous.
That should definitely be illegal because kids shouldn't be
using the drugs in the first place, so they definitely don't
need a way to cleanse it," Sara said.
"I think that they all should be regulated, but I also think
that if students want to use drugs, they're gonna find a way
around it regardless if there's drug testing or not," Cindle
Drug cleansers are not risk-free, Mowry said.
"There can be side effects. Since a lot of these are herbal
products and plant products, people can have allergies to
them. Sometimes you'll have some stomach problems, have some
nausea, vomiting," he said. "They should not be used (by)
people with certain medical conditions."
What the user may not realize is the high levels of caffeine
contained in most cleansers.
"That frequency of urination in my opinion is not real
healthy," Nicks said. "And my biggest thing is that it's
loaded with the caffeine. . . . So it's not very safe when you
have a tremendous amount of caffeine in your system. That can
increase your pulse rate, your blood pressure and stuff like
While drug cleansers are not illegal, the interviewees agreed
that they raise ethical questions.
"I think it is an ethical issue. Basically what someone is
trying to do is to hide their drug use from somebody, most
likely for a pre-employment physical. You're using the drugs,
but you're trying to hide it from the people that have a
vested interest in knowing whether or not you are using
drugs," Mowry said.
"You know, it's just not being honest and trying to
manipulate," said Nicks. "It's just a waste of time and money,
and it's also a waste of your integrity because, you know,
it's not right."