September 13, 2006
5 Tricks for Beating Pre-Employment Drug Tests -- And How to Catch Them

When it comes to circumventing pre-employment drug tests, job applicants can be pretty creative. But the types of tricks they pull are, ultimately, predictable -- and detectable.

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Thomas Lawson, CEO of the employee-screening service, APSCREEN, warns employers to be on the lookout for the following ploys that job applicants use to cheat drug tests, placing employers at risk of negligent hiring lawsuits.

1. Rapid Detoxification -- According to Lawson, many applicants will ingest anything from high quantities of cranberry to pickle juice, herbal concoctions, and other digestive aids to cleanse the system. "However, most drugs contain metabolites that stay in the body for several days and can be detected regardless of what they take to disguise the drug's profile," said Lawson, a court-certified expert in negligent hiring cases.

2. Shy Tester -- Some applicants try to avoid the drug-screening by showing up and claiming an inability to produce the required amount of urine. "This way, the tester can try to secure the position first, hoping the drug screen slips through the bureaucratic cracks," Lawson said. "But patience is a virtue and we make the applicant wait up to three hours and even then an applicant unable to provide a specimen is asked to provide a medical explanation for their inability to void a specimen. The absence of a medical explanation results in a refusal to test which has the same consequences as a positive test."

3. The Switch -- One of the most popular tricks is for applicants to attempt to submit a "clean" sample provided by someone else. "Our process includes a step-by-step authorization, as well as a blood and urine screen, that immediately flags a sample if certain criteria, odd temperatures or unusual activity is noticed." Lawson said. "We've even caught applicants trying to use unique prosthetic devices." The laboratories test every specimen to determine that it is in fact normal human urine.

4. Pleading Invasion of Privacy -- Another common strategy is for an applicant to deny the employer consent to the drug-screening, hiding behind an "invasion of privacy" claim. A strict well-written company policy requiring the testing will hold up in all courts throughout the United States as grounds for not hiring someone or releasing someone from employment.

5. The Waiting Game -- Other testers will accede to the drug-screening but ask for up to 90 days before showing for the test. "This is a red flag that shows the applicant could be 'dirty' and needs time to clean up," Lawson said. "Our process recommends the applicant be tested immediately upon being notified of selection for testing. Any delay caused by the applicant is duly noted and supplied in the final report."

According to the University of Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions, in nearly 19 percent of on-the-job fatalities, the deceased tests positive for alcohol, drugs, or both. Additionally, the federal government estimates that 71 percent of illegal drug users are employed.

The Department of Transportation requires that workers in the airline, railroad, trucking, pipeline, mass transit and shipping industries be regularly tested for drug use. Some non-regulated industries across the country are implementing drug-free workplace programs at the request of employees in order to ensure a safer working environment.

According to Joe Reilly of Florida Drug Screening, the key to identifying the "cheaters" is consistent specimen collection procedures and the use of laboratories certified by the United States Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Reilly is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Washington DC based Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA).

"This includes emptying of pockets, no overcoats or purses, or pocket books brought into the collection area, securing all sources of water, checking temperature of the specimen, observing for sights and sounds indicating falsification, and laboratory testing for adulteration and substitution," Reilly said.

More information is available by calling (800) 277-2733 or visiting

BLR's easy-to-use training program will help you help your employees to comprehend the harmful impact on the workplace, know how to recognize the signs of substance abuse, and discuss your company's policy. Substance Abuse in the Workplace: What Employees Need to Know provides a movie-like version presentation for out-of-the-box classroom training.

More Resources for Handling Alcohol and Drugs in the Workplace


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