Adulterated Specimens

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Published on Oct 17th, 2016

Try googling “how to pass a drug test” or "passing a drug test with dilution". What do you get? You get hundreds upon hundreds of “tips” or “cheats” or “how-to’s” and links to various products that are guaranteed to get you negative drug test results.

Faced with the ever growing costs (and profit losses) associated with drug use in the workplace (accidents, absenteeism, injuries, damage to property, theft, etc.), many more employers are implementing their own drug test policies in the workplace.

With drug testing almost a certainty everywhere, recreational drug users naturally feel they need to somehow “cheat” the system if they want to land a job or keep the one they already have. It does not matter whether they use regularly or occasionally, there is bound to be a drug test on their horizon.

Cheating a drug test all comes down to the specimen that one submits for screening. All “cheats” out there revolve around the premise that passing a drug test is only a matter of submitting an adulterated specimen. Selling all kinds of specimen adulterants is actually a thriving business in itself.

So what is an adulterated specimen? Simply put, it is a specimen that has been tampered with. Be it urine, saliva or hair sample, someone somewhere has come up with a way (so they claim) to “fix” it so that it will pass a drug test.

Adulterated specimens come in any of the following forms:

Urine Drug Test Adulteration

  • Diluted Sample – This is actual urine from the donor that has been diluted either by drinking excessive amounts of water (water loading) before voiding or by adding water directly to the sample after voiding, in an effort to reduce the concentration of drug metabolites in it. The problem with diluted samples these days is that they will never get past the screening stage. Many instant urine drug test kits have built-in validity checks.
  • Temperature Test - Adding water to a sample lowers its natural temperature and it will immediately be flagged for possible tampering.
  • Color - Diluting with water also changes the natural light from golden yellow color of urine to something unnaturally pale or almost colorless, and this observation will be noted down on the Chain of Custody Form (CCF).
  • Odor – Urine has a natural ammonia odor and an experienced and well-trained drug testing technician will be able to tell the difference between a completely odorless sample and an unadulterated sample.
  • Specific Gravity-Normal specific gravity for urine should be in the range of 1.003 to 1.03. A high specific gravity indicates a high amount of solid materials in the urine (urine is more concentrated). A low specific gravity (lower than 1.003) indicates a diluted specimen..
  • Creatinine - Creatinine is a byproduct of muscle metabolism and appears in urine in relatively uniform amounts over the course of each day. It is used as an indicator of whether a specimen is actually urine and how much water it contains. A creatinine level between 2mg/dL and 10mg/dL is indicative of short-term water loading, a common practice when people try to dilute their urine so that any drugs contained therein will be diluted below cut-off levels for analytical testing. Anything lower than 2mg/dL means the sample is not human urine.
  • Enhanced Sample - An enhanced (adulterated) urine sample is one to which a structure-altering agent is added in order to mask the presence of drugs enough to decrease its concentration that it doesn’t show in a test. Urine pH levels outside the normal range of 4.5 to 9 may be an indication of tampering, and this will be noted in the CCF. However, it is worth mentioning that poor handling/storage conditions like elevated temperatures can cause the urine pH level to reach up to 9.5. Common adulterants include soap, bleach, salt and eye drops.
  • Substituted Sample - Synthetic urine is big business these days. Many who go in for their drug tests submit fake urine, or real human urine from another person who’s clean. People have been known to submit apple juice or animal urine, which can both be easily flagged by a standard specimen validity test like pH and creatinine tests respectively.

Saliva and Hair Follicle Drug Test Adulteration

Saliva Drug Test AdulterationWhile adulteration of saliva samples is not very common, it is not totally unheard of and there are still people out there who will try and figure out how to beat a saliva drug test. There are some products out there that claim to be able to rinse traces of drugs from one’s mouth long enough to collect a “clean” sample, or at least with considerably less traces of the drug in it. Dilution is another method, where test subjects are advised to trigger the salivary glands into producing more saliva so that the collected sample will be diluted.

Hair Follicle Drug Test AdulterationAdulterated hair sample can be anything from fake hair (like those on wigs), animal hair, dyed or bleached (to death) hair, etc. Others submit their real hair but only after subjecting it to enough abuse from all kinds of shampoos and washes and treatments that swear to remove most if not all drug residues in order to pass a hair drug test.

Of all bodily fluids used for drug testing, urine samples are the most commonly adulterated mainly because it is simple enough to alter by adding water. Urine testing is also the most widely used and technologically developed method that the makers drug test cheats have concentrated their efforts into the development of products that could thwart the latest urine testing techniques. The bad news for them of course is that doing specimen validity tests is standard practice these days.

Many specimen validity tests make use of drug test strips that should change color when dipped in the urine sample. Color profiles for normal samples are provided for comparison. The most common specimen validity tests for urine are:

  • Creatinine
  • Specific Gravity
  • pH
  • Nitrites

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