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Hidden Challenge of Drug Test Cheating in the Workplace

drug test cheating
  • Published
  • 20 June 2024
  • Category
  • General

Many companies rely on drug testing to help maintain safe workplaces and protect employees from accidents and injuries associated with substance-related impairments. Now, with advanced technology and access to online instructions on ways to circumvent tests, it’s getting harder to prevent drug test cheating.

In an analysis of nearly 9.8 million workforce drug tests, Quest Diagnostics found the percentage of employees in the general U.S. workforce whose drug test showed signs of tampering increased by more than six-fold in 2023 compared to 2022, the highest rate in more than 30 years of reporting. Meanwhile, the use of substituted urine specimens in the general U.S. workforce increased by 633 percent and invalid urine specimens increased by 45.2 percent. (A result of substituted or invalid suggests a urine specimen has been tampered with in an attempt to conceal drug use.)

Not surprisingly, Quest found that increasing rates of substituted or invalid specimens coincide with historically high rates of both general U.S. workforce drug positivity and post-accident marijuana positivity. Suhash Harwani, Ph.D., senior director of science for Workforce Health Solutions at Quest Diagnostics, offers this explanation:

“The increased rate of both substituted and invalid specimens indicates that some American workers are going to great lengths to attempt to subvert the drug testing process. Given the growing acceptance and use of some drugs, particularly marijuana, it may be unsurprising that some people feel it necessary to try and cheat a drug test. It is possible that our society’s normalization of drug use is fostering environments in which some employees feel it is acceptable to use such drugs without truly understanding the impact they have on workplace safety.”

Common Drug Test Cheating Methods

  1. Synthetic urine: One of the most common cheating methods involves the use of synthetic urine. Sold online, this product mimics real urine and can often bypass standard drug testing protocols if not carefully monitored.
  2. Detox drinks and pills: These products claim to cleanse the system of drugs temporarily. While their effectiveness varies, they are popular among employees attempting to pass drug tests on short notice.
  3. Adulterants: Some employees add substances to their urine samples to mask the presence of drugs. Common adulterants include bleach, vinegar or commercial products designed specifically for this purpose.
  4. Substitution: Employees may substitute their urine with that of a drug-free individual. This method requires advance planning, but it is challenging to detect without stringent observation protocols.

Implications for Employers

The potential consequences of employee cheating on drug tests are significant. Here are some critical implications:

  • Increased accident risk: Employees under the influence of drugs are more likely to be involved in workplace accidents that can cause injuries and fatalities.
  • Productivity loss: Drug use can impair cognitive functions and physical capabilities, creating hazardous conditions and reducing overall productivity.
  • Legal and financial repercussions: Employers may have legal liability in cases involving an employee who was under the influence while working. Related lawsuits can be costly and damage a company’s reputation.

How WorkCare Helps Mitigates Drug Test Cheating

WorkCare offers a full range of drug and alcohol testing services and support for drug-free workplace programs. This includes substance testing-related consultations, access to medical review officers (MROs), guidance on written policies and prevention programs, training on ways to help prevent drug test cheating, and referrals to qualified collection sites and labs.

Contact us today for more information on how to refine your company’s drug and alcohol testing protocols.