Ten dumbest tricks to cheat on drug tests

Thursday, September 24, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

There is nothing funny about drug abuse. And nobody takes it more seriously than Beth Lindamood. Really she does. Even if she makes you laugh at the same time.

The Mount Adams woman, a senior analyst at Great American Insurance Cos., specializes in drug-free workplace programs. She has testified before Congress and been quoted by the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Business News.

Her resume is impressive, her concern sincere. Still, she hears some very peculiar things. Drug-related, urine-related kinds of things.

Stupid human tricks

She has compiled a Letterman-esque list of the Top 10 Dumbest Ways Employees Try to Disguise Drug Abuse.

"Everything on the list is something people have actually tried," she says. "Think of the decision-making skills of someone who is so impaired that they think this stuff is a good idea."

Here is her Exhibit A of desperately bad judgment:

10. Spending $29.95 for a vial of "Mary Jane's SuperClean 13." Designed to mask drug use, it's basically dishwashing liquid, Ms. Lindamood says, laughing at Mary Jane's boast of a money-back guarantee. "Can you imagine somebody taking them to small-claims court after they flunk the test?"

The market for masking agents has exploded, but "most of them wouldn't pass an eighth-grade science test."

9. Drinking liquid soap. "It will only make you sick."

8. Drinking vinegar. Ditto.

7. Adding ammonia, lemon juice, table salt, Visine and WD-40 to urine specimen. People get these recipes from the Internet. "They just don't work."

6. Drinking bleach. This is an urban myth that's not harmless, she says. It can damage the liver. And, again, it doesn't work.

5. Injecting "clean urine" into the bladder. Ms. Lindamood says this started with Olympic athletes and spread to amateurs. If perfectly executed in sterile circumstances by somebody with a deft hand, this one will fool a lab. Under less than perfect circumstances, it results in infection, injury and, as usual, a failed drug test.

4. Making your own powdered urine "when you're clean" and substituting when you're not. C'mon, I said, people don't really do this one, do they? "Absolutely. Somewhere, somebody has cups of urine sitting around -- dehydrating."

3. Substituting a "fresh" 40-degree urine sample. "The lab concluded that either he was submitting someone else's refrigerated urine or he was a corpse."

2. Substituting canine urine for human urine. "Picture somebody out in the yard chasing their dog with a cup," she says. "What do you suppose their neighbors think?"

1. Sending a ringer to the collection site. A quick bust. All labs, says Ms. Lindamood, require photo identifications.

Icing on the cake

Ms. Lindamood is what we journaloids think of as a "good interview." Full of information. Candid. She answers better questions than we have asked. She likes her job.

"The good part is that a lot of businesses offer employee assistance programs. They wind up not only with a clean employee but one who has a new sense of loyalty."

Drug abuse in the workplace costs American businesses as much as $100 billion a year, and about 40 percent of industrial fatalities are caused by substance abuse.

Imagine what a real cleanup would do for the workplace. Not to mention what it would do for somebody's life.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio and as a regular commentator on NPR's Morning Edition. Her book, I Beg to Differ, now is available at (800) 852-9332.