Six Ways to Beat a Drug Test: A Cautionary Tale

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Six Ways to Beat a Drug Test

Google “how to beat a drug test” and you’ll get a ton of hits.

And if you’re in HR or a hiring manager, you know that’s exactly what a certain percentage of your applicants will do.

But beating a drug test isn’t as easy as it once was because of today’s advanced drug screening technologies and specimen options, which are much more difficult to subvert.

The following are some of the popular ways your applicants may try to best a drug test.

  1. Temporarily Stop Using Drugs
    Candidates will often try to stop using drugs in the days and weeks leading up to the drug test to get a quick negative result before resuming their consumption of illicit drugs.
  2. Additives in the Sample
    People may try adding dishwasher detergent, bleach, or other household products to their urine that they hope will render the sample a false negative result. There are also commercially available adulterants that are chemically sophisticated; some of those adulterants oxidize a urine sample and metabolize themselves so detection of an adulterant by a lab is impossible.
  3. Flushing Their Systems
    By drinking lots of fluids and urinating frequently before the test, people attempt to flush out the metabolites that are screened by the drug test.
  4. Shave Their Hair – All of It
    In an effort to avoid hair drug testing, individuals have been known to shave their head and body, so a sufficient specimen sample for testing cannot be obtained.
  5. Special Shampoo
    People may use certain shampoos that damage hair to make it more porous to subvert the drug test.
  6. Use Someone Else’s Sample
    Believe it or not, there are people out there who have made it a business to sell their own clean freeze-dried urine to be used as a substitute for a Candidate’s sample.

Despite their best efforts, though, there are ways to detect illicit drug users if you have a comprehensive and effective drug testing program in place.

  1. Conduct Random Testing and Require Testing Be Completed Quickly
    To prevent users of illegal drugs or substances from being able to prepare for the test by flushing out their system, stopping drug use, or getting someone else’s sample, among other attempts to cheat the test, you should conduct ongoing randomized testing as legally permissible and give a short window by which testing must be completed.
  2. Use Trained Collectors and Certified Labs for the Entire Testing Process
    Often when individuals have attempted to add a chemical or change the sample, there are easy ways for a qualified expert to tell that the specimen has been adulterated.For example, the presence of dish soap makes urine bubble, while other chemicals change the specimen to different colors – a bubbly, blue urine sample is obviously suspicious.

    If a urine sample is too clear, that’s also an indication that the person has flushed their system and further testing may be warranted. Trained collectors will document those types of physical characteristics on the chain-of-custody to alert the lab that is testing the specimen of potential issues.

    Certified labs test for pH levels, specific gravity, and the presence of oxidizing agents to determine if a urine specimen falls into normal range. If not, that’s an indication that the sample has been tampered with and further confirmation testing of a positive result is necessary.

  3. Test Other Specimen Types
    Urine samples are the most common specimens collected for drug testing, most likely because of their track record of accurate testing results.However, other specimen types, such as hair and oral fluid, are more difficult to subvert.

    Using different methods of testing, either instead of or in addition to urine, is considered a best practice. For example, hair testing is generally accurate, very difficult to subvert, and offers the longest detection window available( up to 90 days), which allows companies to identify long-term or habitual drug users even if they stop using in the days prior to testing.

    Some candidates can try to subvert hair testing by using special shampoos, but these products tend to be ineffective and only work for certain hair types.

    Oral fluid testing is also a good alternative sample as it’s practically impossible to subvert the test results.

    The detection window for oral fluid is very small (it only detects drug usage within 1-2 days after use), but it’s ideal for post-accident screening and reasonable suspicion testing as it can help to identify whether a person was impaired within a specific time frame.

    Both of these alternate testing specimens yield an increase in positive results 2 to 4 times over that which is found through urine testing alone.

Although there are many tricks that candidates using illegal drugs or substances can try to use to beat a drug test, a comprehensive drug testing program can help employers identify and protect themselves from the risks associated with having these candidates in their workforce.

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Dr. Todd Simo

Dr. Simo is the Chief Medical Officer and VP of Business Development at HireRight. He served as HireRight’s medical director starting in 2009 and was promoted to chief medical officer in 2015. Dr. Simo was also appointed to the role of managing director of transportation and drug & health screening in 2018. Dr. Simo came to HireRight with a decade of experience in the medical consulting arena. Before that he was the medical director for an occupational health clinic in Virginia and owned a consulting firm providing medical director services to employers across the United States

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