FRIDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) — Individuals bent on beating drug tests need only turn to the Internet to find dozens of products that claim to help them do so, scientists have found.
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Researchers at the University of Texas at Houston Medical School plan to present a detailed list of drug-test cheating options, along with sophisticated counter-measure tests that can be done by laboratory scientists, at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry's annual meeting, Monday, in Washington, D.C.
"People have been trying to cheat on drug tests for decades," said Alan H.B. Wu, director of chemistry and toxicology at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the research. "The general population is unconcerned, because they're clean and don't need to worry about that. But, if you're addicted to opiates or painkillers, your job is dependent on clean urine, and these people go to great lengths to try to pass that test."
"These [Internet] companies prey on that mentality with products that enable them to cheat, and laboratories, on the other hand, employ countermeasures to try to detect that practice," Wu added.
Drug testing basically started in the 1980s, after President Ronald Reagan issued a mandate ordering federal agencies to have drug-free work places. The federal government and many other employers now have mandatory drug testing. Today, some 20 million employees are screened annually in the United States for illicit drugs, and maybe 1 percent to 2 percent of samples come out positive, Wu said.
Time-tested ways to cheat on drug tests include using someone else's urine, adding drain cleaner, disinfectant or even water, vinegar or hand soap to the urine sample, or drinking herbal tea. Some people have even tried to smuggle drug-free urine hidden in their armpits or inject drug-free urine into their bladders, the researchers said.
As a result, Wu said, "urine detection sites started taking away any source of water, putting bluing agents in the toilet bowls themselves, so methods [of cheating] have gotten more sophisticated."
The researchers cited some examples of the quick fixes that can be found on more than 1,000 Web sites, products such as "Ready Clean Drug Detox Drink" and "Urine Luck." There are even advertisements for synthetic bottled urine.
In addition, they said, Internet sites sell a fairly inexpensive variety of fluids or pills to flush out the system. And then there are products, with names like Stealth, that can be added to the urine sample after it is collected.
But for each measure, there's often a countermeasure, according to lead author Amitava Dasgupta, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School, who outlines a host of them in his presentation.
The toxicology arsenal ranges from recipes for detecting nitrites in urine to spot color tests and test strips that show doctored urine.
Dasgupta said, in a prepared statement, that only 2 percent of folks try cheating on drug tests. But, he added "There are always a few bad apples, and if you don't catch them, they can spoil a workplace."
"It's a minority that succeed, but it's certainly not zero," Wu added. "We don't know how many are successful, because if we knew that, they wouldn't be successful."
SOURCES: Alan H.B. Wu, Ph.D., director, chemistry and toxicology, University of California, San Francisco; July 28, 2008, presentation, American Association for Clinical Chemistry, annual meeting, Washington, D.C.
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