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Drug Test Adulteration: What It Means for You

Adulterated Drug Tests: What You Should Know

Cheating on drug tests is a common problem most companies and governments face. The truth is that cheaters are more than willing to game the system and get away with illegal drug use.

In response, checking for adulterated drug tests has become an important step to maintain the integrity of these tests. Every day, laboratories are evolving to get one step ahead of these cheaters.

Today we’ll talk about adulteration and find out the most effective form of adulteration.

What is Adulteration?

Adulteration of urine drug tests refers to the process of altering a urine sample to get a fake negative result. It’s a form of cheating so that regular or even occasional users won’t get caught when they’re subject to a drug test.

Cheating is possible in most types of tests, like saliva tests and hair follicle tests. But by far, a urine drug test is the type that most commonly attracts attempts at fakes results. This is because the collection of the urine is often done in private, where cheating can be done unsupervised.

A common cheating technique is to have a ready bag of urine from a clean source, then substituting it as if it was their own.

Alternatively, they may also try to alter the composition of the urine in the hopes of fooling testing procedures. It's called an adulterated drug test, and it often involves adding a substance called an adulterant.

These are chemical compounds added to urine samples to achieve immunoassay interference in drug tests. It means traces of the drug are masked, or the process is interrupted, producing a false negative.

How to Adulterate a Urine Test

There are various ways of doing an adulterated drug test, some with higher chances of success than others. They also vary in how difficult they are to be detected by laboratories and testing centers.

The easiest way is to dilute a urine sample in the hopes of lowering the concentration of drug metabolites in the sample. It's done by drinking an obscene amount of water before collecting a sample or adding water directly to the sample.

Fortunately, modern testing has mostly caught up with diluting samples, and it can easily be detected during the screening stage.

A more straightforward way of cheating is adding adulterants to the urine. A lot of this can be accomplished with simple household chemicals or substances which can be easily purchased at a drugstore or pharmacy. 

One group of substances being used is oxidants in the form of bleach. It's thought that this can mask traces of drug metabolites in the sample and produce a false negative. Other interfering compounds include PPC, potassium nitrite, and glutaraldehyde.

Unfortunately for cheaters trying this method, lab testing is easily able to detect these added substances, and the penalties for whomever attempted to cheat the drug test are usually steep.

Detecting Adulterants in Urine

Most modern drug detection methods can successfully identify adulterants for drug tests, thereby invalidating the sample. Testing tools like dipsticks or an adulterant panel can tell if the urine sample has been tampered with.

There are specific parameters that a urine sample must fit in order to be considered valid. These include correct levels of creatinine, specific gravity, and pH. Most tests are also indicated as "w nit," which means it can also detect proper nitrite levels in the urine.

If the sample goes beyond the range in any of these levels, it might indicate dilution or adulteration. Sometimes, sensory analysis of the samples can also help verify them. Warning signs include an off-color, the absence of an ammonia smell, and a lower temperature.

Urine samples are also often screened for any oxidants. What does oxidant activity mean on a drug test? It means drug metabolites can be destroyed in the sample, giving a false negative result. Luckily, a high level of oxidant is not normal in human urine and is easily detected.

Spot Tests

Standard detecting procedures can’t always detect every type of adulteration. For certain substances, you will need to perform a spot test to identify them successfully. We list some of them below:

  • Stealth is an adulterant consisting of peroxidase and hydrogen peroxide, which interfere with an opiate, LSD, and THC-COOH testing. A spot test adding a tetramethylbenzidine solution and a phosphate buffer solution to the urine can successfully detect this adulterant.
  • Glutaraldehyde is a cleaning agent and is one of the first adulterants used by cheaters. A spot test using a simple fluorometric method is an effective method to check for this substance in a sample.
  • Urine Luck is another adulterant that contains PPC, an oxidizing agent that causes negative results in EMIT II drug screens. A spot test of adding 1,5-diphenylcarbazide in methanol to a tampered sample turns it reddish-purple, indicating the presence of PPC.

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