April 14th, 2016 | Sterling

Top 3 Ways to Beat a Drug Test . . . Or Not

Top 3 Ways to Beat a Drug Test ... Or Not

I’ve counseled many employers over the years on the need to ensure their pre-hire qualification process doesn’t overlook the importance of drug testing to make sure that the next new hire isn’t one affected by substance abuse.  Not only does substance abuse present a serious situation for a job applicant on a personal level, but also for workplace and public safety.  So, as important as other elements of an employment background check are, equally important is pre-hire drug testing.

However, drug users know that the path to their next job may include a pre-hire drug test.  No doubt the prospect of being denied or terminated from employment is ample motivation for many to stop using, or to seek help to overcome their addiction.  For others, though, more drastic means are pursued to get a job.

It’s not uncommon for employers to question how easy it might be for someone to try to beat a drug test.  Since most pre-hire drug testing today is performed by obtaining a urine specimen from a job applicant, I often suggest to employers who ask to search online to see what they might find.  Simply typing in “how to beat a drug test” will return countless web sites, advertisements, and blog posts, many of which are quite open with ideas for helping an inquirer cheat on their next drug test.

So how do they do it?  There are generally three ways cheaters try to obstruct the drug testing process. Check out our list below and ways that your substance abuse screening provider can help you beat the cheat.


This typically involves over-ingestion of water by the donor.  The more water in the urine specimen (added either through ingestion or directly to the voided urine), the less detectible a drug might become during laboratory analysis.  Additionally, because consuming large quantities of water removes the yellow color in urine, cheaters try to add the color back by taking vitamin B before the test.

How do you beat the cheat? Dilution doesn’t guarantee a negative test result. In fact, it’s fairly easy to detect and often leads to the candidate being asked to submit to another test.


Oftentimes this involves the purchase of powdered urine, which is later mixed by the donor with water either at the collection site or prior to arrival.  However, because the temperature of the mixture is generally cooler than actual donor urine voided at the collection site, the cheater must devise a way to warm the mixture to a temperature consistent with urine recently voided from the body (typically 90 – 100 degrees Fahrenheit).   Of course, substitution can involve synthetic urine, urine from another person (or animal), or common beverages as well.

How do you beat the cheat? The specimen procedures that are typically followed by collection sites today safeguard against substitution to a very large extent.  Prior to entering the bathroom used for collection, site personnel instruct the job applicant to empty all their pockets, the bathroom is secured by adding blue coloring to the toilet water and all water sources such as faucets and toilet tank lids are affixed with tamper-evident tape. For the few cheaters who aren’t stopped at the collection site, the analysis performed by the laboratory can also detect a specimen with characteristics atypical to “normal human urine”.


This typically involves the addition of chemicals to a urine specimen to obstruct laboratory analysis of the specimen, or to mask or destroy the drug in the specimen.  Common household chemicals used to adulterate a specimen include bleach, salt, vinegar, iodine, eye drops, and liquid hand soap.  Other chemicals used to adulterate a specimen include oxidizing agents (such as nitrites), diuretics, or commercially marketed products such as Goldenseal.

How do you beat the cheat? The aforementioned solutions identified for substituted specimens apply to adulterated specimens as well. Specimen validity testing performed by the laboratory can detect cheating by identifying abnormal chemical or physical characteristics in the specimen.  Subsequently, the vast majority of drug users who try to beat a drug test wind up beating themselves out of a job.

As you can see there are some creative ways prospective and current employees are able to cheat on a drug test. However, cheating and getting away with it are two different things. Thanks to some common sense security techniques and scientific innovation, employers can rest easy knowing the odds are stacked in their favor.

Maintaining a drug-free workplace webinar

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