A patient handing a urine sample to a doctor

Drug abuse is a critical problem throughout the world. While opioids are a significant public health concern, accounting for 2.88 million visits to emergency departments in the U.S. in 2016 and 2017, other drugs are also abused on a regular basis, including cocaine, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines.

In 1986, President Reagan directed federal agencies to achieve a drug-free work environment. Many private employers also employ drug testing to ensure their workplaces are safe. Approximately 20 million people are screened each year in the U.S. in workplace drug testing programs, said Amitava Dasgupta, PhD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

Dasgupta will discuss ways that people try to beat drug tests and strategies clinical laboratories can use to detect adulterated specimens during a roundtable session “How People Try to Beat Drug Testing and Defend Positive Results” at the 2022 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo on July 24-28 in Chicago.

About 2% of people undergoing drug testing attempt to “beat” the tests, Dasgupta said. Some people try to beat drug tests by ingesting detoxifying agents designed to flush out drugs and metabolites. Others add adulterants to their urine, such as common household chemicals –laundry bleach, table salt, toilet bowl cleaner, and vinegar. While these types of adulterants are fairly easy to identify, there are chemicals that can be purchased online that are more difficult to identify in urine. In addition, some individuals purchase synthetic urine online in an attempt to beat drug tests in settings where collection of a urine specimen is not supervised.

When attempts to beat drug tests fail and a test comes back positive, individuals sometimes blame the positive result on other issues, such as eating food with poppyseeds, inhaling second-hand marijuana smoke, or taking CBD products for pain.

Dasgupta will also discuss ways to debunk common defenses of positive drug tests. “This is a very important topic because we want to have a drug-free workplace, and lab medicine professionals who are involved in the field of toxicology testing play a big role in helping ensure a safe workplace,” he said. “It’s important to know ways in which people can try to beat drug tests so you know what to look out for.”

Among the topics that will be covered during this session:

  • What are common household chemicals that are often used to adulterate urine?
  • What are commercially available products used to beat drug tests and how can you recognize when they are being used?
  • How can you differentiate natural urine from synthetic urine?
  • Protocols for detecting specific adulterants.
  • What are common defenses for a positive drug test and how they can be debunked?

“There are 14,000 sites on the internet that tell you how to beat a drug test, Dasgupta noted. “My goal is to make sure that toxicologists know how people try to beat tests so they can be prepared in advance.”

Kimberly Scott is a freelance writer who lives in Lewes, Delaware. +Email: [email protected]