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Drug Testing News
Are Your Employee
Drug Tests Accurate?
The Whizzinator, an easy-to-conceal, simple-to-use device with
a realistic prosthetic penis, comes complete with an
adjustable belt, a 4-ounce vinyl bag, dehydrated toxin-free
urine and organic heat pads—all for only $149.95.
Why would HR professionals need to know about this
Because The Whizzinator, made by Puck Technologies of Signal
Hill, Calif., is only one of a swarm of products that aims to
help employees—both male and female—beat your company’s drug
Other items available on the Internet include products that
potential test cheaters ingest or drop into specimen cups.
There is even “clean” urine for sale that drug abusers can
substitute for their own.
The existence of these products is bad news for employers, who
fork over considerable sums of money each year to test their
Reasons for conducting these tests vary widely. Some
employers, including those in the transportation and nuclear
power industries, are required by federal law to test
employees for drug use. Others face similar mandates at the
state and local level.
Some employers test voluntarily because they operate in one of
the 11 states that offer discounted workers’ compensation
premiums to companies that have drug-free workplaces. In fact,
97 percent of Fortune 500 companies have drug-free workplace
policies, according to the Institute for a Drugfree Workplace.
Also, 67 percent of employers have drug-testing policies, says
the American Medical Association.
Actually, all organizations have a practical incentive to
test, given that substance abusers generally are not ideal
employees. According to the American Council on Drug
Education, drug abusers are:
• 10 times more likely to miss work than those who are clean
• 3.6 times more likely to be involved in on-the-job
• 5 times more likely to file workers’ comp claims.
• 33 percent less productive.
In addition, more than 75 percent of all drug users are
employed somewhere, according to the federal Substance Abuse
and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division
of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS).
Employers aren’t the only ones who pay the price for drug
abuse; employees pay a heavy toll also. Substance abuse
jeopardizes health, self-esteem, relationships and income. The
price tag is so high, starting with the stigma of addiction
and ending with the ultimate disgrace of discharge, that some
employees would do anything to avoid a positive result.
Enter the entrepreneurs.
How Employees Cheat
“Most of the products for beating drug tests are for urine
tests, because 90 percent of employers who do drug testing
take urine samples,” says Donna Smith, Ph.D., senior vice
president of Substance Abuse Management Inc. (SAMI) in St.
Petersburg, Fla., a third-party administrator of drug-free
“By far the most preferred resource is dilution,” says Leo
Kadehjian, Ph.D., an independent biomedical consultant in Palo
Alto, Calif. “There are many products available on the
Internet that claim to help rid the body of toxins. But they
work only because of the large amounts of water the user has
to consume along with them.”
Another way to beat a drug test is to add chemicals to a urine
specimen, thereby disrupting the testing process itself or
making the drugs undetectable. In the past, test cheaters used
common household chemicals such as denture tablets, eye drops
or bleach. Today, entrepreneurs are offering more
sophisticated products. These include:
• Oxidizing agents, which chemically alter or destroy drugs
and/or their metabolites. Examples include products named
Klear, Whizzies and Urine Luck.
• Non-oxidizing adulterants, such as UrineAid and Clear
Choice, which change the pH of a urine sample or the ionic
strength of the sample, or cross-link the enzymes used in many
• Surfactants, or soaps, such as Mary Jane’s Super Clean 13,
which, when added directly to a urine sample in the proper
amounts, can form microscopic droplets with fatty interiors
that trap fatty marijuana metabolites, making them invisible
in screening tests.
• The Whizzinator and other products that let employees
substitute drug-free urine for their own. One intrepid
Hendersonville, N.C., entrepreneur, Kenneth Curtis of Privacy
Protection Service, even sells his own urine—guaranteed drug
and adulterant free—along with a substitution kit consisting
of a pouch, a tube, a chemical hand warmer and a temperature
For products like these, the best detection methods—pat-downs
or direct observation of someone giving a sample—skate along
the edges of privacy violation. Federal rules allow those
actions only if there’s a good reason to believe the person
may be cheating. That presents a challenge for employers and
the drug testing industry, which is onto such scams.
Testing Industry Fights Back
“As adulterant companies come out with new products, labs test
to detect what it is they’re using to mask the drug,” says
Laura Shelton, executive director of the Drug and Alcohol
Testing Industry Association (DATIA) in Alexandria, Va.
Employees at testing firms also reconnoiter enemy camps by
reading the counterculture periodical High Times, adds
Kadehjian. “They search the Internet, they buy the chemicals,
they do the research, then they publish their results in the
scientific publications. As soon as they’ve addressed one
adulterant, another gains popularity. It’s a challenge to try
to stay ahead of them.”
One company - PassYourDrugTest.com (PYDT)—claims to
keep up with current testing methods and trends by employing
four “freedom fighters” who work in drug test labs and who
funnel information to PYDT.
In spite of such efforts, it appears the drug test industry is
gaining the upper hand. “Drug test fraud has been decreasing
to some extent,” says Shelton. “It’s fairly small right now.”
In all of 2001, 12,500 samples—out of 20 million to 25 million
tests performed each year—were adulterated, she says.
Shelton’s assertion is borne out by research from Quest
Diagnostics Inc., a giant diagnostic test firm based in
Teterboro, N.J. According to the Quest Drug Testing Index, a
widely respected semiannual survey, the number of individuals
who used adulterants to thwart drug tests declined by 48
percent in the first half of 2000—when the labs started
seriously testing for cheaters—compared to the previous year.
The research is based on more than 6 million tests that Quest
labs performed. There are more than 50 testing labs in the
country, Shelton says.
Meanwhile, states and the federal government are watching the
drug test cheating industry and taking measures to prevent
fraud. But, thus far, their efforts have been far from
complete. While cheaters’ efforts are being thwarted, one
employee who brings his drug habit to work is one too many.
It’s still up to HR to ensure that your workers do not put
their colleagues, the company, your customers or the general
public at risk.
States Crack Down
STATES TAKE ACTION
The following states passed laws making drug test fraud a
State Year the Law Was Enacted
New Jersey 2002
North Carolina 2002
South Carolina 1999
Alarmed by Internet ads that tout ways to fool drug tests,
nine states have passed laws making it a crime to engage in
drug test fraud. (See “States Take Action,” right.) Typically,
these laws target both the test-taker and those who make or
sell products that enable employees to fake test results. But
there are some variations.
In Louisiana, for example, the law covers only those who take
court-ordered drug tests, so its workplace implications are
limited. Pennsylvania’s law criminalizes only the use of
drug-free urine, not adulterants. Nebraska bars only the sale,
purchase or use of “body fluids” to alter drug test results.
On a related note, Alabama and Idaho bar employees from
jobless benefits if they hand in adulterated urine samples,
although neither state has criminalized the sale or use of
drug test cheating products.
So far, except for one case in South Carolina, there have been
no criminal prosecutions under these laws. The single
exception is the 2001 conviction of urine-selling entrepreneur
Curtis under South Carolina’s 1999 law. While his criminal
case was pending appeal, Curtis moved his business across the
state line to North Carolina, but that state passed a law this
year that bars:
• Selling, giving away, distributing or marketing urine
intended to defraud a drug test.
• Attempting to defeat a test by spiking or substituting a
• Adulterating a sample.
• Possessing or selling adulterants.
But that’s about it for prosecutions under the laws. In
Oregon, for example, Rep. Robert Patridge says he hasn’t even
checked to see whether anyone has been prosecuted under the
state bill he sponsored in 2001. “We primarily set it up as a
deterrent, as a safe workplace tool, and as an accountability
issue,” he says.
Loopholes in Federal Guidelines
Current federal guidelines, led by Department of
Transportation (DOT) standards (widely considered the gold
standard), may not be casting a tight enough net around test
fraud. For example, current rules don’t require testing for
adulteration and dilution: Employers have to request it.
A set of proposed HHS rules would change that, requiring
“specimen validity testing” for all urine samples. Officials
expect that proposal to pass, but the process is slow.
Another limitation of the current rules is that they may not
be finding all the folks who dilute their urine. Dilution is
by far a bigger problem than adulteration, says Kadehjian. The
DOT guidelines consider a specimen diluted only if it’s eight
times more diluted than normal.
“There are sanctions only if the urine is so dilute it can’t
be human,” says Kadehjian. “Specimens below the dilute cutoff
don’t happen easily. And the only sanction for diluted but
otherwise acceptable specimens is that the next time a
specimen is demanded of that donor, it may be collected under
direct observation. Obviously, direct observation is pointless
if a person has taken in a lot of water to dilute their
SAMI’s Smith disagrees that the dilution standard is too lax.
“The cutoff is extra generous, but some of the population
produces that kind of urine. People on Weight Watchers have to
drink 12 8-ounce glasses of water in a 12-hour period,” she
says. “I don’t think the government should change the dilution
criteria. They would pick up a number of people because of
their dietary and fluid intake.”
But Smith acknowledges that cheating is still going on.
The fact that current federal standards make it hard to catch
frauds doesn’t mean that employers’ hands are tied. You can
ask for specimen validity testing even if it is not required.
“The vast majority of employers do it,” says Smith. “It
doesn’t cost a lot more.”
And employers can set their own stricter standards for
adulteration and dilution.
“Private companies often forget that they can have a more
stringent program,” says Kadehjian. “They can request the lab
to look for adulteration and dilution at stricter cutoff
Kadehjian cites the case of a tanker that ran aground in the
Mississippi River. The employee at the helm tested negative
for drug use under Coast Guard regulations, but positive under
the employer’s own more stringent cutoff. The employer
discharged the employee, and the court upheld the discharge,
citing the public policy against workplace drug use.
Meanwhile, the entrepreneurs say business is booming.
“Business is very good,” confirms Sue Thompson, an herbalist
with PYDT. “Those new state laws really don’t affect us. You
have to realize that where there’s a will there’s a way.
Business is, and will remain, steady. PassYourDrugTest.com
will continue to help anyone who asks and will stand behind
our words 100 percent, anytime.”
The feds are also undaunted. “We have our challenge,” responds
Donna Bush, Ph.D., chief of drug testing at SAMHSA. “But that
doesn’t stop us.”