Tox Tuesday: As synthetic urine demand increases, lawmakers begin to tackle issue

May 08, 2018

With drug abuse rates rising in many parts of the world — and opioid usage rates well past crisis levels — the need for reliable drug testing is as potent as ever. Now, governments are responding to one challenge that has been rising in popularity lately: synthetic urine.

Urine testing is one of the most common ways to test for drugs in the body, and employers frequently use it to screen potential and existing employees. And since people are always trying to cheat the system, whatever that system may be, it’s not surprising that fake urine would hit the market. Buyers who know they won’t pass a drug test can covertly slip this product into the drug-testing facility, using the fake urine instead of their own, and get a free pass. The demand for these kinds of products has been increasing as of late.

“People can basically use it to avoid consequence with their employers and probation officers,” David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, told The Washington Post. “There’s just no other legitimate purpose for it.”

Due to the rising demand, some U.S. states have made moves to ban the substance. Indiana and New Hampshire have already made using and/or selling synthetic urine illegal, while Missouri and Mississippi have introduced bills to do the same. (Mississippi’s bill is called the “Urine Trouble Act.” You have our permission to cringe and/or laugh at the pun.)

“Our employers are reporting to us a concern that more and more of their employees are using synthetic human urine to cheat on a drug test,” Dan Gibson, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Self-Insurers, told The Washington Post.

The ingredients of synthetic urine vary, but they commonly contain uric acid, which is a chemical compound found in urine. The product is carried in some stores, like marijuana dispensaries and head shops, bought online, and reportedly, sold at some truck stops.

Skipping the problem

One way to avoid the risk of adulteration in the drug testing room is to avoid urine tests, and rely on a different kind of test such as an oral fluid test, or blood or hair tests.

With oral fluid tests, an absorbent collector pad inserted snugly between the cheeks and gums to collect oral fluid — which is a mixture of saliva and a fluid called oral mucosal transudate. The absorbent pad is then sealed in a vial, which can be tested at a laboratory. Multiple other formats are available.

The benefit of oral fluid testing, in large part, is how it can be easily observed without violating the test taker’s privacy. Observation means adulteration with a synthetic substance becomes much, much harder to pull off.

Another plus: Very recent drug usage can be detected in oral fluid, while it might take a few days or weeks to appear in urine or hair.

To see a video of how oral fluid collection works, check out this demonstration of NeoSal, an oral fluid collection system from Neogen.

Neogen is a leader in providing tests to detect a wide variety of drugs of abuse and their metabolites, including tests for urine, blood, hair and oral fluid.

Category: Toxicology