State Politics

Smoke pot but want a job? Why using fake urine likely won’t help you pass a drug test

If you’re looking for a job, you better just leaf this alone (as long as we’re making bad puns about drug policy).
If you’re looking for a job, you better just leaf this alone (as long as we’re making bad puns about drug policy). AP File

The Urine Trouble Act may be moving through the Mississippi House at the behest of an insurance trade group, but truck drivers are hardly the only people trying to beat drug tests.

A bill by Rep. Andy Gipson that passed his House committee on Wednesday would make it illegal to bring human or synthetic urine into the state, or sell it in Mississippi if it’s intended to circumvent drug tests.

The bill lists 15 additives that could mimic urine or make a urine sample appear drug-free. It would be illegal to possess or sell those if the intent is to beat a drug test. The bill also says the presence of instructions on how to thwart drug tests or devices, such as heaters to keep the “urine” at body temperature, would be evidence of intent.

The Associated Press reported the Mississippi Association of Self-Insurers is behind the bill because it wants to keep impaired truck drivers off the road and impaired workers out of factories.

A simple Google search brings up an array of devices and liquids aimed at beating drug tests. There are message boards aimed at pot smokers and job seekers who have used drugs. There are bags to conceal fake urine —“Quick Fix” is a popular brand — and devices, such as “The Cupid” and “The Whizzinator,” to get them undetected into a sample bottle. Millions of choices pop up, which suggests more than a passing interest in the subject.

And it’s clear there is a cat and mouse game going on between drug users and testers. About as fast as a marijuana user can come up with a strategy for beating the test, the drug labs come up with strategies for snaring the user anyway.

“Uh oh,” is a common refrain on message boards where marijuana smokers chat about beating the system.

“I dunno where to start,” someone called “bluefloor” posted on one such board. “Long story short, I took a test last Saturday with Quick Fix ver 4.0 (I purchased it and used it the same day so it wasn’t sitting around for a while). Anyways, I used the heat pack as advised in the instructions and the temp was ok for the sample (92) so I thought I was good to go since the testing place didn’t think anything of the sample when I brought it out of the bathroom. They had me sign the paperwork and the sticker that goes over your sample. I also told them I take no vitamins and no prescription drugs. So I thought everything was set.

“Well, my (former) new employer called today to tell me they got the results back and the lab said it was “synthetic urine”. Basically, I lost my new job after one day and was just wondering what (if anything) I did wrong and are labs figuring out how to identify the 4.0 sample? I ask because the test site noted the temp and sample color looked fine (on the carbon copy paper they gave me).”

That person most likely ran into Quest Diagnostics, a company that has been around since the 1960s and specializes in medical diagnostic testing. It takes drug testing seriously, too, and does a lot of it.

The company says it has been on to fake urine schemes since 2000. It measures pH, creatinine and specific gravity. That can differentiate urine from, say, Mountain Dew. Yes, a Florida man tried to pass warm Mountain Dew off as urine. Then he told arresting deputies his name was “Dumb Ass,” if you’re wondering how it could get any worse.

Quest also tests for adulterants — which is a foreign substance. Quest Diagnostics often adjusts its tests as new adulterants surface.

But the company says that cat and mouse game is the reason the federal government is considering turning to hair and saliva for its drug tests. The American Trucking Association backs that change but it said the trucking industry is doing a good job keeping impaired truckers off the road. It disputes a 2013 study that found widespread drug and alcohol use among truckers worldwide.

When it comes to criminals, though, fake urine likely won’t get it. They often have to submit to drug tests and can’t expect the privacy that would be afforded an employment applicant. Privacy makes it easier to conceal the slight of hand necessary to get a fake sample into the bottle.

Critics argue the tests are expensive and ineffective.

Michael R. Frone, a senior research scientist at the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo, says there is a lack of evidence that workplace alcohol and drug use is prevalent, that it leads to a costly lack of productivity and that testing and employee assistance programs deter drug and alcohol use. Others say the tests can detect marijuana and other drug use even after the effects of the drug have worn off. That issue is further complicated in states that have legalized the recreational and medical use of the drug.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton