Thriving Market in Drug-Test 'Aids' 

Thriving Market in Drug-Test 'Aids' 
Posted by FoM on January 25, 1999 at 10:29:19 PT

Drug tests have become almost as common in the job application process as listing a previous employer.And just as some applicants fudge their job history and overstate their academic credentials, many are trying to thwart drug-screening tests.
The result is a thriving industry in "drug-testing aids" -- products designed to beat such tests.The hundreds of products and companies that sell them are involved in an elaborate and ever-escalating cat-and-mouse game of drug testing. The drug-test cheaters raise the bar, and the companies that test for drugs jump higher, as do the prices for those tests.Workplace industry groups estimate that nearly 87 percent of all employers use drug testing as a pre-employment screening method, a percentage that has grown exponentially in the last few years. SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories, for example, performed 300,000 tests in 1987; this year, it will do 5.5 million.The company is "trying to keep ahead of the curve" said spokesman Thomas Johnson.Fortunately for Johnson and his company, many of the drug-foiling products are little more than diuretics designed to flush the system."The solution to pollution is dilution," is the motto of the anti-testing trade, Johnson said. That strategy makes detection easier -- diluted urine is easy to spot. Another method is to put something into the urine that will mask the presence of the drug or invalidate the test.He said some employers have taken the stance that a tampered-with test result should meet with the same consequences as a positive test result.That kind of philosophy makes John Hartman, president of the Northcoast chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, cry "foul."Drug testing doesn't indicate on-the-job intoxication, he said, but past use."Smoke a joint over the weekend and you can fail the test," Hartman fumed.Hartman sells drug-testing products at his store, Cannabis Connection, in Lakewood, Ohio, and said he knows of only three failures among the thousands of people who have used the product."People who are on drugs will do anything to beat the system," conceded Amy Cunningham, an account representative with Zenza Mobile Medical Service, a mobile drug-testing service based in Twinsburg, Ohio.As people begin to tamper with specimens, Zenza has become more vigilant. It added a blueing agent to toilets so that during a test, employees can't dip the specimen cup in the water and dilute their urine. They also turn off the water.People are required to wash their hands before being tested so that any substances on their hands or under their nails can't be added to their urine collection.The specimen cup even comes with a temperature strip that determines whether the urine is between 90 and 100 degrees. Over or under and the specimen is rejected, Cunningham said.The next step is to test the concentration of the urine. Diluted urine is flagged as possibly tampered with or the result of a person flushing his or her system.The company also tests for nitrates, which are common in products popular with the drug-test-thwarting set.The products are expensive and often not worth the money, said John Boja, assistant professor of pharmacology at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. He recently examined one popular product. "Thirty-five dollars for water, sugar, flavorings, creatinine, and vitamins," Boja said. "With that much money, they could have made enough solution for several hundred bottles. . . . The profit margins are enormous."By drinking a lot of water for a few days, depending on the type of drugs and the quantity used, a person may be able to flush his system so chemical traces would be below levels detected in a standard drug-screening test, Boja said. The other methods of tampering -- adding eye drops, drain cleaners, bleach, or chemicals to the urine sample -- are usually foiled, he said.People do desperate, silly, and sometimes dangerous things to pass drug tests, Boja said, when there's one easy way to pass -- stop using drugs.By MELANIE PAYNECopyright  1999 Bergen Record Corp. 
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