If you are employed by the government (State or Federal), or a Fortune 500 Company, or your job is considered "sensitive" (such as a truck driver or a teacher) then you are sure to be drug tested at some point. You will also be tested if you are planning on adopting a child or if you are a professional athlete. In the modern times of increased governmental scrutiny, almost everyone will have their urine inspected. Detailed information about preparing for a drug test can be found on

When it comes to drug tests, the objective is always to have a negative result. It is simply incorrect to assume that the fact that you have never taken any drugs will mean that you're safe. People with no history of drug use have frequently returned positive results to drug tests and this can have devastating consequences. If you, like most people, have taken a regular cold medication from the chemist this can turn your result positive. Eating a poppy seed bagel can produce a positive result for an opium test. Passive exposure to someone smoking marijuana can produce a positive result. It may be that the lab technician makes a mistake that causes you to test positive. The important point to note is that avoiding drugs will not necessarily mean a clean drug test result. And of course, if you are using illegal drugs, the tests are designed to find out about it. These factors mean that you need to prepare yourself for drug testing.

Preparation for a Drug test

When it comes to drug tests, the important thing is that you are prepared and proactive. There is little point in waiting until after you receive the results. Advanced education means that you will have the knowledge and power to pass drug testing or to respond in the most effective manner should you get a positive test result. Smart people will begin their drug test education immediately! There's no point putting it off until a drug test is scheduled at your workplace. Educate yourself about how the tests work broadly and then concentrate on your company's policies and program.

Initially you should learn as much as you can about the tests that you are likely to be given. Each of the different tests involve different strategies for getting clean results. The most common drug tests are the crude and inexpensive screening methods, like the RIA or EMIT. These tests return either a positive or negative answer which reveals whether or not a drug metabolite (a chemical residue that remains after drug use) is in the urine sample. These tests are not able to identify the actual substance that was responsible for making the result positive. This causes the serious problem of cross-reactivity which occurs when a legal over-the-counter drug creates a positive test result when the subject has not taken any illegal drugs.

Job applicants will regularly be required to take screening tests. The truth is that if you return a positive test result in the process of a job application, you will probably never find out about it. The company will just not contact you at all. The worrying thing is the ongoing storage of that positive result and the people who may have access to it. This situation is really unfair when the positive test result has come about as a result of cross-reactivity with a legal medication and not illegal drug use. The applicant is not even given the chance to argue their innocence. This is one reason why it's so important to be prepared and ready to protect yourself from drug tests. There is already enough competition in the workplace, you need to avoid the added disadvantages of a positive drug test.

Alternatively, you may already work in a job (such as truck driving or for a government agency) where there is a policy of random drug testing that is designed to scare people into being drug-free. In these cases again, a positive or negative answer is all that's required. If you test positive in an initial screening test, then your urine sample will be retesting using a more accurate method that will confirm whether or not the result was correct, and also reveal the drugs that were found. The worrying thing about this is that the legal use of prescription drugs is revealed as well as any illegal drugs. You will usually not want your employers to know if you take certain prescription drugs like Viagra or Prozac! It may also reveal other personal information such as pregnancy. The revelation of this private data is another reason why workplace drug testing is so concerning.

People who are in drug treatment programs or on probation will also usually be required to take regular drug tests. The purpose of these tests is monitoring and controlling their behavior. Testing on a regular basis does assist drug addicts in stopping their use. It may also be a good alternative to jail for people who break drug laws. These tests will again usually involve screening methods that return a yes or no result.

Drug tests may also be administered following a specific event, such as a crime or an accident. These situations will generally required a more sophisticated testing method that is able to find smaller quantities of drugs, as well as identifying the particular substances involved. The test that is most common here is gas chromatography / mass spectrometry (GC/MS).

GC/MS is rarely used by employers or drug treatment programs because it is a more expensive method. They may use it for confirming a positive test result because confirmatory tests are meant to be done using a more accurate method. This rule however, is frequently ignored and the confirmation test may be conducted using a second screening methodology. This reduces the costs involved, but it's very unfair. If you are treated in this way then you need to ensure that your lawyer demands a proper confirmation of your initial positive test result. Hopefully this will not happen to you, but if it does it's good to be informed of your rights.

Finding Information

A good way of finding information about drug testing is simply questioning the relevant people. You may want to ask your supervisor or other colleagues who have been involved in previous drug tests at your company. Ask your co-workers the procedures involved when they were tested in order to assist with your own preparation. Also look for company announcements on the topic. You should be able to find information about the testing program used by your company in your employee manual. You could also ask personnel officers to give you further information about the procedures. Union representatives are also a good source of information. Unions will generally give members advice about the testing process and its potential pitfalls.

The manufacturers of drug tests can also provide useful information. You should be able to find 800 phone numbers for many of them online. You can ask these companies any inquiries you may have or request that the send you additional information packets. The number for Syva Company, located in Palo Alto, California is 800-227-8994 and the number for Roche Diagnostic Systems from New Jersey is 800-526-1247.

Avoiding Suspicion

When you are asking around at work for additional information about drug tests, you will need to be subtle in order to avoid arousing suspicion. Being overly interested in the drug test process may lead your boss or coworkers to wonder why. They may question why you are so interested and whether you have anything to worry about, and you will need to have suitable responses to these questions. Have answers prepared for these questions will ensure that you don't come across as being defensive. Emphasize that you don't want to lose your job as the result of an error in the testing process.

Important questions to ask

  • Is the test administered by a lab, in-house or by someone else?
  • How will the samples be collected? Is it done in a special room? What's the room like? Is there a supervisor?
  • How will the samples be stored? How long will they be kept? Who will have access to them?
  • Are the lab technicians properly trained and certificated? Is the specimen collection overseen by anyone? Is that person properly trained and certificated?
  • If I get a positive test result, what will the confirmatory test be?
  • Will the confirmation test be done by the same lab or somewhere else?
  • Who will find out about the results? How long will the results be kept?

These responses to the questions outlined above are particularly important if you return a positive test result. If you have this information before the tests are conducted, then you will be better prepared to avoid or respond to a positive result. In most cases, information is easier to get when the testing is performed in-house rather than by an independent testing lab. In-house tests will typically use an EMIT or RIA screening method and these are usually more casual. Tests done by a lab are usually highly standardized and monitored.

Sample Collection � The Basic Steps

Being aware of how the sample will be collected in advance mean that you are better prepared for facing the whole ordeal. Advance knowledge of the procedures will reduce that chances that you are nervous or surprised � both signs that could arose additional suspicion or cause the collector to observe you more closely.


It may that actual process of you giving the urine sample will need to be observed by someone else in order to satisfy requirements regarding the chain of custody. If this observation doesn't occur, then the company is not entirely sure that you haven't tampered with or substituted the urine sample. The observation of sample collection was previously limited to criminal justice scenarios before workplace drug testing became popular.

There has always been a controversy involved when workplace drug testing has involved direct observation � and this outcry is completely understandable! Most people would feel degraded and humiliated if we were put in the situation of being forced to urinate under strict observation. The result of this is that drug testing procedures usually use indirect observation methods, in combination with additional precautions like clothing searches, taking the sample's temperature and ensuring that your hands are clean.

The urination is rarely observed directly because this is considered an excessive intrusion for everyone involved. The Federal guidelines however, do permit an "over-the-shoulder" or a monitor to stand "outside-the-stall". This person is known as the Collector and they are responsible for listening for unusual sounds or any other strange behavior that might necessitate a second sample. Any plans that you may have to sabotage your drug test by tempering with your sample or making a substitution will need to account for the monitoring involved in the collection. This is essential to succeed when taking these risks. If you get caught tampering with a drug test, then you are likely to face serious consequences. You will be presumed guilty and will probably be fired. In some states, sabotaging a drug test is even considered a criminal offense.

Direct Observation of Sample Collection

Under the Mandatory Federal Guidelines, a second sample should be collected immediately when the first sample is outside a given temperature range and the subject doesn't permit their temperature to be measured, or the body temperature and sample temperatures are inconsistent. The second sample is to be collected under direct observation. This can also be required if the Collector thinks that you have substituted or altered the specimen. The clues that may give this away could be a blue color in the sample, any unusual smells or sounds while you're meant to be peeing, or if they notice another substance spilt on the floor.

You may be given prior notice that you need to provide a sample under direct observation if you have previously provided a specimen that was diluted or unable to be tested. In these circumstances, the Medical Review Officer is required to confirm that the unsuitability of your sample cannot be explained by medical reasons. Once you have raised a suspicion, the scrutiny is intense.

It is generally not advisable to cheat on a drug tests. It is both dishonest and dangerous. However, this is meant to be a free society that we're living in and it can only stay that way if we demand that our rights are suspected. In the following chapters we will outline ways successful ways to beat drug test that have worked in the past. The way that you use this information is up to you and the consequences of your actions are your own responsibility. You should be well informed and smart. Think about consulting a lawyer or someone that you trust when thinking about the consequences of schemes designed to outsmart a drug test.

The Dry Room

The dry room (also known as the collection room), is the location for giving a urine sample. It is called the dry room because there is no water available to prevent samples from being diluted. You will first be asked to go to a changing room. Here you change from your regular clothes into a hospital gown. Having you change means that you can't bring in disguised in your clothes. The dry room may be a bathroom in which the taps have been sealed and the toilet bowl partially emptied. The water in the toilet will usually contain a colored dye to prevent dilution of samples.

Federal Government Guidelines

"The employee must go to a special collection site to give a urine sample in a toilet stall or behind a partition to permit officials to control the conditions of collection in order to prevent cheating or contamination".

"The worker must take off outer garments and leave them outside the stall, along with purses or briefcases, to prevent the carrying of substitute samples, water, or chemicals into the stall".

The worker must wash and dry hands before entering the stall; this is to prevent the carrying of chemicals under the fingernails, of the carrying of moistener or soap into the stalls to put into a sample bottle".

"After washing hands, the worker must remain in the presence of a collector before entering the stall; this is to prevent access to a water fountain, faucets, soap dispenser, or cleaning agents that could dilute or contaminate the sample".

"Blue dye must be placed in the toilet bowl before use to prevent a worker from dipping water from the toilet bowl to dilute the sample".

"The worker giving the sample in the stall is not to be observed directly, but the collector may watch for �any unusual behavior' that could indicate attempts to dilute or contaminate the sample".

"The worker is to provide 60ml (slightly more than two ounces) of urine to assure an adequate amount for proper testing. In the Department of transportation, 30ml is allowed. The worker may be given drinking water by the collector to aid in achieving the minimum amount".

"The collector will take the temperature of the sample within four minutes after it is given; this is to prevent dilution of the samples with water or substitution of a �clean' sample. If the temperature is not within the range of 90.5 to 99.8 degrees Fahrenheit, a new sample is to be taken, with the collector directly watching the worker giving the sample".

"The collector must observe the sample until it is sealed and labeled to assure there is no substitution or misplacement, and the worker must sign a form verifying that he or she has personally provided the sample."

Dedicated bathroom

The government attempted to solve the issue of observation by having a bathroom dedicated for drug testing. In these dedicated bathrooms, all the water has been cut off to prevent urine samples from being diluted. The subject is required to leave all their possession (which could be hiding places for diluting substances or clean urine) behind before they enter the dedicated bathroom. These reduce the possibility of samples being altered, but they don't remove them completely. A subject could theoretically fill a colostomy bag with clean urine or hide a contaminant under their fingernails. Measuring the temperature of the sample allows the collector to identify a substitution, unless the substitution has been kept at body temperature. Suspected contaminants will usually be detected. However, some careful people have succeeded in foiling a dedicated bathroom.


A collection site person has been defined by the Mandatory Guidelines as the person who gives instructions and assistance at the drug collection site, as well as receiving and initially assessing the urine sample. The Collector is not required to be a medical professional, but they must be trained in how to collect urine samples. If a direct observation is required, the Collector and the subject must be of the same gender.

Collection Site

The Mandatory Guidelines define the "collection site" as the entire area where the collection of urine occurs. This includes the bathroom and the Collectors area. Only authorized personnel can enter the Collector's area and this is where material and supplies are stored. The Collector is responsible for ensuring that subjects don't have access to anything that could dilute or adulterate the samples. This includes soap, water, personal hygiene products and disinfectants.

Identification of Donors

Anyone giving a urine sample must be positively identified. Identification that will be accepted includes photo identification (such as an employee card or driver's license), identification by the employer, or any other type of identification that the particular program allows. Having a co-worker identify you will not be accepted. Other cards (like credit cards, social security or voter registration cards) that don't have your photo on them will not be accepted.

Medical Review Officer (MRO)

Reviewing results is an essential element of drug testing. A positive result in the lab test does not necessarily mean that the person is taking illegal drugs. The possibility of other medical explanations for the result is something that must be considered by a trained specialist and this person is the MRO. They review the results together with you and are bound to protect information concerning your medical history. The MRO is viewed as a very important part of the Federal Drug testing Program.

A new drug testing law was enacted in Iowa in 1998 and one of its provisions was to allow nurses, physician assistants and chiropractors to work in the role of an MRO provided they had proper medical training. This is the only state law in which a non-physician can work as an MRO and the Iowa Department of Public Heath has announced that they consider it to be inappropriate.