Firms Offer Ways To Foil Drug Tests

Firms Offer Ways To Foil Drug Tests
Posted by CN Staff on February 17, 2003 at 21:10:27 PT
By Martha McNeil Hamilton, WP Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post 
Type "beat the drug test" into an Internet search engine, and you come up with more than 100 Web sites devoted to helping foil workplace drug screening.It's part of a technology race, or as Barry Sample, director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s Corporate Health and Wellness division, puts it, a marathon, pitting those who would defeat the screening against those who conduct it.
The starting gun was a 1986 federal order establishing the goal of a drug-free federal workplace. In subsequent years testing spread to federal contractors and then into the private sector. "Now it's pretty ubiquitous," said Diane Cadrain, a lawyer who is legislative affairs director of the Human Resource Association of Central Connecticut.Rolling right along with workplace testing was the development of a counter effort. "This is a cottage industry that has become increasingly more sophisticated over the years," said Robert L. Stephenson II, director of the division of workplace programs in the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Both the testers and the would-be cheaters watch each other and try to reverse-engineer what the other side is doing, he said. One company says on its Web site that it changes the formula for chemicals to fool the drug-testing labs every six to nine months, he said.Early attempts to alter drug-test results were fairly obvious and relied on products that were close at hand. And some of them still show up from time to time, said Lottie Johnson, drug program coordinator for the D.C. Department of Public Works, which requires drug tests for its truck drivers and heavy-equipment operators. "Sometimes you smell it. It's like, 'Okay, this is bleach,' " she said.Products that pledge to beat the tests include shampoos that promise to wash away any sign of drug use from hair follicles, as well as synthetic urine, urine additives and detoxifying drinks or tablets with such names as "Fast Flush" and "Clean Green." And then there is the Whizzinator. Ads for it offer a $150 device that straps on and comes with its own prosthetic penis (in five different skin hues), dehydrated drug-free urine and heat pads designed to produce a realistically warm urine sample, even under observation.Sometimes product names remain the same, but the product is changed to keep up with new technology. Vendors may offer to replace older, now detectable, versions or warn buyers that product shelf life is less than a year. According to Quest, drug testing is making inroads against drug use and against the use of adulterants to beat the tests. The company is one of the largest drug-test diagnostic firms, analyzing about 40 percent of all tests nationwide each year. Of 6.3 million tests it processed in 2001, 4.6 percent were positive, down from a high of 13.6 percent in 1988. The company also found that cases of adulterated samples were declining. "There are two possible explanations," said Sample. "One is that testing for adulterants is having a deterrent effect." The other explanation, he said, "may be that the cheaters are finding a way around the tests. Maybe it's a little bit of both."Testing for adulterants has been widespread only since about 1998, when the federal government issued standards of what constituted substituted, altered urine. The definitions were needed because the drug-screening industry realized that methods of beating the tests had become more sophisticated. Nitrites and other oxidants began to show up in samples, signaling that a chemical reaction had occurred.Nine states have passed laws making cheating on such tests a criminal offense. Virginia's House minority leader, Franklin P. Hall (D-Richmond), whose legislative proposal became law in 2001, said he initiated it after business owners complained about seeing signs advertising ways to beat drug tests posted on telephone poles near their companies. He hasn't heard complaints since the law was passed, he said, "so I assume it must be working."In Texas, which has had such a law on its books since 1991, two probationers in Bexar County were caught last year using the Whizzinator and sentenced to 180 days in jail. They were also required to pay a $2,000 fine. Workplace drug testing pays, supporters say. A study by the Office of National Drug Control Policy estimated that the nation lost $110.5 billion in productivity in 2000 because of drug use, and the Labor Department estimates that 6.5 percent of full-time and 8.6 percent of part-time workers are illicit drug users. Marijuana is the most frequently detected drug, showing up in about 60 percent of the positive tests, followed by cocaine. Critics of the tests say that they pick up more marijuana users because the drug stays in the body longer, although Sample disagrees. "If you have a casual marijuana user who shares a joint or two, the detection time for that isn't much different than for cocaine or other agents," he said.Critics fault widespread drug testing as an unnecessary invasion of privacy. While it makes sense to test people in safety-sensitive jobs for drug usage, many of the tests contribute little to improving either workplace safety or productivity, said Graham A. Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Policy Litigation Project. Employers test anyway, he said, in an effort to reduce their workers' compensation and insurance costs. "The fact that so many people are doing so much to subvert the system" suggests widespread disdain, he said. "You don't see that with laws about embezzlement because there is a shared moral code that embezzlement is bad. If you don't buy into that, you really are an outsider."Note: Intensifying Efforts Spur Counterattack.Source: Washington Post (DC)Author: Martha McNeil Hamilton, Washington Post Staff WriterPublished: Tuesday, February 18, 2003; Page E01 Copyright: 2003 Washington Post Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Site:ACLU Under The Influence, Snip, Snip Could Be Final Test Before Hiring Drug Testing Archives
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Comment #11 posted by Sam Adams on February 18, 2003 at 17:45:24 PT
They're just "breaking us in"
Of course more substances such as nicotine will be added to the banned list. People in Texas now go to jail for wearing a fake dick. No suprise there. The goal: chip away at our human rights and sense of personal dignity. The result: A population more accepting of its future role - serfs on the corporate plantation. Eliminate the middle class! That is the endgame.First all the decent manufacturing jobs were eliminated - shipped overseas where workers can once again be paid starvation wages. Next, the white collar jobs were sent off to India and other countries. Eventually, it will be 1/10 of one percent rich elite, and 99.9% poor service-job workers. All getting "drug" tested, of course.Oh yeah, there will be SOME middle-class jobs: police and prison guards.
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Comment #10 posted by AlvinCool on February 18, 2003 at 16:00:38 PT
10 months
I tested positive when I hurt my foot at work. I got 12 months of random and with 10 months gone I have not had one test. Wonder why? Could it be they are more interested in keeping a good employee than detecting drug use? I'd easily pass the test, but it makes me laugh that they are scared to give me one.
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Comment #9 posted by greek_philosophizer on February 18, 2003 at 12:18:49 PT:
I really like the comments posted
I just wanted to say that
the comments posted here so far
have been unusually sober
and well expressed.
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Comment #8 posted by Commonsense on February 18, 2003 at 08:26:19 PT
Insurance Costs and Productivity
"Employers test anyway, he said, in an effort to reduce their workers' compensation and insurance costs."There really is truth to this and in fact in many states, after the hiring process if you are involved in a work related accident and then test positive for any amount of marijuana metabolites, you will be denied workers compensation benefits. You'll have to take it to court and try to prove that you weren't high, or that the accident was not "substantially occaisioned by the use of intoxicants," which is extremely difficult to do in today's climate. It's even more difficult if you die or become a vegitable in the accident and it's your family who is seeking benefits.This is of course grossly unfair because THC or "marijuana metabolites" show up in people's systems long after the effects of the drug have worn off. But, these cases have been appealed to higher courts and in almost every instance the courts look at the "important" state's interests in keeping people off drugs and keeping drugs out of the work place and they overlook the obvious fact that people who were not intoxicated, and their innocent families, will be denied benefits under these laws. I've even read where justices on these appelate courts will write that these injured workers shouldn't get a "windfall" of benefits because they broke the law. I'd hardly call workers compensation benefits after an accident that ruins you for life a "windfall."
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on February 18, 2003 at 08:20:49 PT
One More Comment
I'm not sure if my comment made any sense but what bothers me about drug testing is it makes a way out of paying as much in damages for Insurance Companies. Drug testing isn't really about safety as much as a way to put the blame on people and eases the responsibility of Insurance Companies. Very simple but I do believe it. Why do we pay for insurance?
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Comment #6 posted by WolfgangWylde on February 18, 2003 at 07:34:03 PT
I've seen a few...
...cases where companies refuse to hire cigarette smokers, and drug testing is done for nicotine in those cases as well. And my, how the butt-heads whine. I just laugh my backside off. In fact, watching cigarette users being led down the same path as us pot smokers over the last decade has given me a real chuckle. The more the merrier.
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Comment #5 posted by John Tyler on February 18, 2003 at 06:18:10 PT
Cigarette smokers
How about the lost productivity due to employees taking their numerous outdoor cigarette breaks? Nobody mentions that, but it is the most obvious. They are always hanging around outside of the building entrances in all kinds of weather meeting the needs of their addiction. Increasing their blood pressure, clearning their minds, relaxing, gossiping, getting ready to go back inside for another hour or so of work before they need another smoke break. Count the cigarette smokers where you work.
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Comment #4 posted by jvthc on February 18, 2003 at 03:17:20 PT:
Where do they get these names?
I once read a long expose on the odd connection between names and occupations.Barry Sample works for a company that tests urine?It just doesn't sound real, does it?
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Comment #3 posted by firedog on February 17, 2003 at 23:14:38 PT
My 2 cents
MADD and other organizations don't want to admit this, but it's true - drowsy drivers cause more motor vehicle fatalities than drunk drivers.And the largest number of motor vehicle fatalities, by a factor of three, is caused by "distracted" drivers, i.e. those who are futzing around with cell phones, screaming kids, razors, make-up kits, meals, etc.Yet there are no increased penalties for distracted or drowsy driving, and you don't see MADD screaming for them, either. Otherwise they might have to change their organization to be called MADSKIBS (Mothers Against Driving with Screaming Kids In Back Seat).But if you get caught driving with alcohol or drugs in your system, you are subject to very serious punishments, regardless of whether anything bad has actually happened. It's a form of "pre-crime", really. Lock people up, because the "precogs" have predicted that an accident will happen. But in this case, the precogs are just statistics tables, and incomplete ones at that.Statistics tables have taken an insane hold on the entire world of driving, from laws to insurance, and it's amazing what the people in charge of this system have been getting away with. There is a statistical correlation between bad credit and bad driving, so if your credit score isn't high enough, your insurance company is allowed to gouge you, even if you have a spotless driving record.If they used the same techniques in the rest of society, we'd be screaming bloody murder.The theory behind criminalizing DUI, for instance, is that someone driving under the influence is statistically at greater risk of causing an accident than someone driving sober. Well, a black male is statistically at greater risk of committing a violent crime, compared to, say, a white female. Does that mean that we should use the same "pre-crime" technique and lock up all the black males in the country?The threshold for DUI is quite low, too, and getting lower all the time. In many states, testing positive for THC constitutes driving under the influence of marijuana, even if it's been weeks since the driver smoked a bowl.If saving lives were really the issue, you'd see massive public education campaigns about paying full attention to the road while driving. No TVs in the cars, no cell phone talking in traffic, no eating fast food while barreling down the freeway, and above all - no driving while you're tired. Combined, these types of offenses cause about five times the number of deaths that drunk drivers do. Yet they don't get any attention. 
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on February 17, 2003 at 22:23:39 PT
My 2 Cents
You know what I don't like about drug testing? If a person gets behind the wheel while under the infuence of any mind altering substance, and they cause a serious accident they should be held accountable. What if a person is very tired and falls asleep at the wheel and causes a serious accident? I believe what is wrong with drug testing is it takes away the rights of people and makes them guilty even if they never cause an accident. 
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Comment #1 posted by p4me on February 17, 2003 at 22:14:58 PT
No thrill for me here
A study by the Office of National Drug Control Policy estimated that the nation lost $110.5 billion in productivity in 2000 because of drug use, and the Labor Department estimates that 6.5 percent of full-time and 8.6 percent of part-time workers are illicit drug users. First, the government's numbers are not trustworthy as truth in government is a fantacy. Secondly, they should use the figure for illicit drug use instead of saying drug use that includes the hang-over producing alcohol and crippling and deadly tobacco and the legal pills that are abused.If I were writing the article I would want to inform the masses of the Canadian position that says testing is a violation of human rights that is excepted by sensitive jobs such as truck drivers.Of course if the WP had any sense of journalistic ethics they would be repeatedly addressing the harms of prohibition, cannabis and otherwise. 
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