Detecting Adulteration in Urine Drug Test Samples
For as long as there has been urine drug tests, people have been trying to cheat them. Potential cheaters have a number of methods they use to try and adulterate the sample they give so it is imperative that you know these methods and be able to counteract them accordingly.
Some point-of-contact testing kits have built-in adulteration detection systems of their own but even if using one of these tests, it is worth knowing the various ways of cheating. Adulteration techniques (including the built-in ones) may not completely ensure detection of adulteration in every case by they can alert staff to the most common methods of adulteration, thus enhancing the integrity of your drug testing program.
Water loading, as its name implies, is the attempt to dilute one s urine by drinking copious amounts of water (or any other fluids).
It is one of the most common adulteration techniques and can be difficult to spot unless the testing technician is experienced in detecting water loaded specimens.
Running a parallel test for creatine concentration levels (more on that below) is one way of detecting water loading.
Adding Common Household Products to a Sample
Some cheaters prefer to add things to the specimen and will often add whatever they have sitting around their home, such as bleach, cleaning products or peroxide in an attempt to change the chemical make-up of the sample and produce a false negative reading.
In order to add these products to the sample, of course, they must be sneaked into the testing area. That is why it is a good idea to have test subjects empty their pockets and you may also want to frisk them before they are tested to make sure that they aren t hiding something to add to the sample.
You may also want to consider requiring that a line of sight be kept on the sample container throughout the entire procedure, although this can raise problems of its own like shy bladder or the necessity to make sure that the tester and test subject are of the same gender.
Some household products are relatively easy to spot in a sample. Bleach, for example, gives off a usually pungent and recognizable odor.
Cleaning products such as Drano might make urine less acidic than usual, which can be a tell-tale sign of adulteration. It may also make the sample unusually warm or cause it to bubble.
There are many products on the internet and in some stores like head shops that claim to render a sample negative when added to it. The presence of these products can usually be detected through analysis of nitrite levels if the confirmatory tests are run immediately.
Other adulteration products are continually being developed and marketed, many of which have to be ingested. Scientists, though, are also continually developing adulteration detection methods to combat these products. It should also be noted that many of these consumable adulteration products simply do not work.
Submission of a Sample From Another Person
Instead of adding something to their sample, a person might just try and submit a sample that isn t even theirs at all.
To prevent this, you can take similar action as preventing people from adding things to the sample as noted above, like having test subjects empty their pockets, frisking them and requiring that a line of sight be kept on the sample container throughout the entire procedure.
Monitoring the temperature of the sample closely is another way to detect this type of cheating, as recently voided urine will be warmer than urine that has been previously voided and snuck in.
Diuretics are substances that encourage the body to urinate more frequently than normal and can potentially decrease the retention time for drugs in the system. Some teas, milkshakes, fruit juices and other fluids act as diuretics. Many of these products also require the ingestion of large amounts of water and this could result in diluting the urine enough that the presence of drugs falls below drug testing cutoff levels.
There are a variety of less common ways of adulterating samples that people will use and many websites and online forums offer advice for cheating drug tests. Although it would be impossible to monitor all of these sites, it might be worth it from time to time to check them out and see what kind of advice for cheating is being given to people. The more you know, the better prepared you ll be to catch cheaters.
It also must be accepted that despite the most stringent efforts, some adulteration may indeed occur undetected. But careful interpretation of drug test results coupled with some basic anti-cheating measures will go a long way to ensuring adulteration is at least kept to a bare minimum.
Checking for Temperature, Color, and Other Evidence of Tampering
It is important to observe the color, temperature and odor at the initial collection of the sample. For example, Vitamin B1 (sometimes taken by heavy drug users to help rebuild and rebalance their body s system after years of drug abuse) gives urine a bright yellow hue. An experienced and properly trained drug testing technician can tell that this color is quite different from the color of unadulterated urine, which should be a light to golden yellow, free from foreign materials, and have a slight ammonia odor. Samples that are completely colorless or extremely pale should be suspect because those are signs of water loading.
Samples outside of the 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 to 37.8 degrees Celsius) temperature range should also arouse suspicion, as this is the average temperature range of freshly voided urine.
Normal urine has a pH of 5 to 8 and specimens above or below this value should be suspect.
Detecting possible water loading can be done through a specific gravity test, which compares the density of a drop of water to the density of a drop of urine. If the weight of the urine is below a certain level, it can indicate that the urine has been diluted. Samples with a specific gravity under 1.003 should be suspect.
Testing the creatinine level can also help to detect water loading. Creatinine is a metabolic product excreted in the urine by the kidneys and its concentration in the urine is affected by fluid intake. If the creatinine level of a urine sample falls below a certain level, it can indicate that the client consumed large quantities of fluids prior to giving the sample. Values of creatinine less than 20 milligrams per deciliter may be an indication of water loading.
Followup analysis should be performed through additional tests for specific gravity, pH levels, creatinine, and nitrates if cheating is suspected.
A few additional steps to help avert adulteration include requiring:
observed monitoring of all sample submission, as previously mentioned;
the submission of a minimum amount of urine;
set time limits for providing a specimen (e.g., 1 hour or less from the time of test notification to the time of collection) to minimize the possibility of internal dilution;
limited access to fluids prior to providing the specimen.
Now that you know what to look for when drug testing, spotting cheaters should be easier. But the best way to ensure minimal adulteration is by having properly trained drug testing technicians.
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