I don’t know that there’s a cannabis enthusiast in America who has not faced a stressful drug test situation (I’ve certainly faced plenty). Whether they’re related to probation or employment, millions of Americans face worrisome drug screenings every year.
Even completely clean individuals break a sweat inside the testing office… Hell, we’ve all seen the Seinfeld episode where Elaine fails a drug test due to eating poppy seeds. It isn’t the most likely false positive scenario, but it is entirely possible. There are countless reasons why you might fail a drug test when no drugs have ever been ingested.
Americans should know their rights and when to exercise them, including (most importantly) those who are doing nothing wrong. If you’re on the wrong end of the justice system, the best-intentioned, most honorable man can be a victim. In this same vein, we should be well-versed in the capabilities and limitations of drug tests.
The Drug Tests
Waiting it Out
What You’ll Take
“Test Proof” Drugs
The Drug Tests (a brief overview)
- Hair Test – Can test back for years, depending on hair length – Generally tested back 90 days – Very accurate – Very difficult (if not impossible) to beat – Second most common test (though a distant second)
- Urine Test (urinalysis) – Can test back to varying degrees for different drugs, maximum of two months – Fairly simple to beat, depending on drug – Accuracy wildly ranges depending on type of urinalysis – Most common drug test by far
- Blood Test – Only detects drugs from the last few days or so at most – Impossible to beat – Extremely accurate – Rare, though they are seeing more use in suspected DWI cases
- Saliva Test – Only detects drugs used in that last 24 hours, in most cases – Impossible to beat – Not very reliable – Most logical solution for future marijuana “drugged driving” charges – Not used extensively in America today
- Sweat Test – Not really even worth mentioning except for novelty – Hardly ever used, unreliable, expensive, silly
You are now familiar with the tests. I am not a teacher who believes in standardized testing, so I’ll simply take it on good faith that you’ve understood this much so far. As you can see, only two of the tests are used with any consistency, and coincidentally they are the only two that can be cheated.
The hair test suggestions will be brief. The only guaranteed pass you’ll have is by removing all hair, including body and facial hair. Any hair they can find is fair game. About an inch and a half will get them enough material to determine what drugs you’ve used in the past 90 days. Since your hair acts as a timeline of your drug use, this metric will stay consistent throughout the length (ie-each extra .5 inches will always equal about a month).
Limited success has been had by users who attempt to bleach their hair, or wash it with certain chemicals. One of the problems associated with testing is that the subjects rarely, if ever, see their results. So, a company could in fact hire a potential employee in spite of a failed drug test. Therefore, it is unwise to accept the experiences of people passing employment or probation tests. Too many variables.
Soapbox aside, about all you can do is shave or pray. Fortunately for most, hair tests are not used in pre- or current-employment testing in the vast majority of situations. However, I have personally come across them, so I know they do exist. Occasionally they’ll be used by extremely strict probation officers or courtrooms, but that is an occurrence even rarer than in the private sector.
3/29/13 Update! There have been reports that success has been had with “hair relaxers.” And in fact the science seems to back it up, finding that in certain circumstances as little as 5% of the original illicit chemicals remained after being treated with hair-relaxer.
Urinalysis is a much more exciting topic; the tests are more common, and they can be fooled. The sheer number of different urine tests – all varying significantly in price and consistency – makes for a complex situation. It’s such a tangled mess of confusion, most stressed-out test takers have no concept of where to begin. Let’s begin at the types of urine tests in practice today:
- Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS)
- Enzyme Multiplied Immunoassay Technique (EMIT)
- Radio ImmunoAssay (RIA)
- Test Cup
“Whoa, what the hell are those names and how am I supposed to know what’s going on? Also, test cup!”
Let’s be honest, nobody really cares what the names of the tests are, we all just want to pass them, right? The majority of the time, you’ll have little idea exactly what type of test you’ll be getting. Websites can be found that contain lists of employers who drug test and the types of tests they administer. But I’ve found they’re often outdated and, frankly, wrong.
The test cup (or test strip) is the most common option in the urinalysis family. This test has soared in popularity in recent years due to its relative consistency, ability to be sent in for lab-confirmation, and low price point. The concept is extremely simple, and thus is pretty damn easy to pass. If you were to heat tap water to 98˚, you could possibly fool this one. Some of them do check for concentrations of creatine or uric acid, but they are fairly rare. Most of time they only check for temperature and drugs.
If sent to a lab, your urine will be tested for everything under the sun, including verification that it is urine. Companies do not check gender of submitted samples. It is prohibitively expensive, and would serve little to no purpose. As long as it is human urine, it will do just fine.
Most Common Tests:
- 5 panel test – THC – Opiates – Methamphetamine – Amphetamine – Cocaine
- 9 panel test – THC – Opiates – Methamphetamine – Amphetamine – Cocaine – Barbiturates – Benzodiazepines – Morphine – PCP
- 11 panel test – THC – Opiates – Methamphetamine – Amphetamine – Cocaine – Barbiturates – Benzodiazepines – Methadone – PCP – Oxycodone – MDMA
You can find tests of any random number of panels, but these are the most common types of preliminary urine tests you will receive. The 5 panel is the cheapest and normally used by over-bearing parents and the like. Most corporate tests or probation offices will use the 9 panel, though the 11 panel does appear occasionally. In most cases if you pass one of those, they won’t bother you any longer.
Only substitution can provide the absolute guarantee. That is, take someone else’s pee and put it in the jar. It may seem like a daunting suggestion at first, but as long as you don’t try a sitcom-esque scheme it is definitely doable. In fact, the most difficult part of the exercise is finding a clean donor.
Facts/methods of substitution
- Condoms or 5 Hour Energy bottles are your friend – The first step at acquiring your clean urine is to stow it away somehow. A condom carries the concern of breakage, but has the added benefit of being puncturable to provide a convincing stream for nosy probation officers. If concealment is not a concern, the 5 Hour Energy (or other small, thin container) will be ideal.
- Temp must be in the range of 96-99˚F – The best way to ensure this is a portable hand warmer. Put your urine container in the warmer, and measure the temperature with a thermometer before pouring it into the cup. Another option is to simply keep the container in a warm area on the body. Armpits or other hot areas like genitalia will serve the purpose.
- Urine can stay “good” for months – If left to its own devices, your urine will expire in a room within a few hours. Refrigerated, the lifespan jumps to a maximum of 30 days. If frozen, it can last up to a year! Simply unfreeze when you need it, warm it up, and you’re ready to confidently walk into any testing center.
- Synthetic urine does work – Do your research on this, some of them are scams. But some are legitimate, and if you struggle to find a willing, clean donor, they can be a life-saver. Make sure to verify you are getting the most up-to-date option, as tests are constantly fighting an uphill battle against synthetic companies.
If substitution is not an option, you’re not completely out of luck. The recommended backup will not (contrary to popular belief) involve buying a “get clean” kit from your local head shop. These are all scams, and most of the time they do nothing but add some basic stuff like B12 or creatine, both of which could be bought without paying absurd markup.
The second option, in fact, is as simple as drinking water. If you drink a good amount of water the night before, the drug metabolites in the urine will be saturated in much more water than they normally would. And since drug tests measure concentrations of these, it can effectively be used as a cheating technique. With anything, you don’t want to go overboard. To begin with, too much water can kill you. Beyond that, many tests have screenings for certain acids in the urine that will also be diluted by water.
Therefore, if you are too successful in your dilution, they may throw out your test, and make you retake it. This could be good or bad, but if nothing else it gives you a few more days to get clean. An option to counter over-dilution possibilities is to take the aforementioned creatine or B12 supplements. Many individuals drink enough water so that their urine is nearly clear, as that is the natural color of healthy urine. So stick by your story that you drink lots of water, and there shouldn’t be much of a problem.
It is also recommended that you do not use the first pee of the day, and that you take a sample from mid-stream. The reason being; when you sleep lots of junk is released by your body for expulsion the next morning. This means there’s a higher concentration of the stuff that can get you in trouble after you just wake up. By taking the test on your second or third urination of the day, you’re helping clear out the crap that has accumulated.
A proven yet more time and effort intensive option does exist. If you want to really ensure you’re going to pass this test, and cannot or will not substitute urine, you can help along your body with exercise. Perform a higher-than-normal cardiovascular workout for a week or two prior to the test. This will get your metabolism pumping, so the THC will spend less time relaxing in your fat reserves.
About 3 days before the test you’ll want to stop, and “fatten” yourself up. Pack on serious carbohydrate-heavy dinners, and it will help saturate the “dirty layer.” This is an effective technique for people who will be facing very difficult tests (including military-issued), and need that extra bump to ensure that they will pass. Combined with dilution, a two week break, and this method, even the most stringent tests will be passed. And, more importantly, passed legitimately.
Now, bear in mind, all of the immediately preceding information is THC-specific. Other drug-related metabolites are not processed in this fashion, so the metabolism-boost won’t help as much. Dilution is going to work for anything, however, as it’s just simply adding more of one thing than another.
Wholly legitimate strategies for passing will only entail a process of waiting. Which I think seems rather boring, but then I do have a tendency to take risks… Anyway, there are many handy charts for this on the web, but since you’re here, I’ll give you the basic time-table:
- Weed: urinalysis – 5 weeks, blood – 2 weeks, saliva – 24 hours
- Opiates: urinalysis – 1 week, blood – 24 hours, saliva – 24 hours
- (Meth)Amphetamine: urinalysis – 1 week, blood – 4 days, saliva – 3 days
- Benzodiazepine: urinalysis – 45 days, blood/saliva – unclear (likely 30 days)
- Alcohol: urinalysis – 5 days specialized test (normal test 12 hours), blood/saliva – 24 hours
A more comprehensive list can be found at Erowid, however it is slightly out of date. All of the times listed here are worst-case scenarios, and applicable to chronic users of heavy doses. Abstaining from a drug for the times listed above will ensure 100% beyond any doubt that you will pass your test for that substance. For a single time – or inconsistent – user the detection times will be halved or greater in many cases.
If your sample is sent to a lab it will be inspected with very precise tools. However, these tools are expensive and exhaustible, meaning they are not interested in wasting those valuable resources on everyone’s urine, checking for obscure chemicals they’ve likely never heard of.
Usually, it will only be sent to a lab if you fail the preliminary test. If it’s for pre-employment, they may simply dismiss you altogether, false positive or not. It’s unfair and ridiculous, but that’s corporate America in a nutshell. But if it’s a probation (or any court-related) screening they’ll be – more or less – legally obligated to send it in for verification. At that point, there’s nothing you can do but sit back and wait for your results.
I hate drug test myths, I really do. I used to not really care, and take amusement in the naiveté, but now I’ve seen real harm done because of them. So here are some quick dismissals of urban legends:
- Bleach does not “clear your system,” or clean it, or do anything. Quantities as little as 4 drops can purify an entire gallon of water. That means every harmful bacteria in that water is ensured to be completely mitigated with 4 drops of bleach. Imagine what a teaspoonful could do to the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. I heard a person swear by bleach drinking. She was on probation for an entire year, and “passed every time but once” by drinking bleach. I didn’t ask for her method, but I would assume it included lots and lots of water, seeing as her digestive system seems to still be in working order…
- There are no legal repercussions from failing a pre-employment test. If you fail, the only bad news is you’ll not be offered a position. But there will not be any officers knocking on your door (because of the drug test, anyway).
- Tests do not test for gender, age, race, height, menopause, penis size… I believe the same episode of Seinfeld I mentioned earlier perpetuated this myth. Rest assured, males and females can substitute urine for each other to their heart’s content. There is no chance of discovery beyond actually transferring the liquid and keeping it at the correct temperature.
- No those ridiculous “get clean” tests don’t work. I already addressed this briefly, but it bears repeating. Stop paying hard-earned money for this shit; you might as well spend it on weed. Most of the directions have you drinking so much water, you might start to wonder if they’re trying to help you pass or drown you. Truth is, they’re simply taking advantage of stressed-out people, and forcing them to perform dilution before taking credit for the positive result.
- “My cousin passed by hopping on one foot while drinking lime juice from a shot glass and then performing three backflips.” Anecdotal evidence aside, drug tests are notoriously inaccurate. Dirty people pass, clean people fail, and everything in between. It’s not a fair game, and the only winners are those who get lucky. You can do what you can to increase your odds, though, and that’s what this page is all about.
Now that all that is out of my system, let’s move past “how to beat the test.” Most people are unaware what a drug test actually entails, let alone what test they might receive. And with fancy names and acronyms like like GC/MS, Radio ImmunoAssay, and EMIT, good luck taking a guess.
- Pre-Employment/Promotion- It wholly depends on your employer. I know it seems like a cop out, but it’s true. In most cases, lower paying jobs (like retail employers) will use the most easily fooled type: the test cup/strip. On occasion they are known to use EMIT, but it’s rare, and GC/MS is almost unheard of. You will most likely go into a private stall or bathroom unsupervised to do your business. I have been to one employer who wanted to hair test me, and I’ve heard of some others. It’s a rare practice, but it does occur. In most cases they will not retest if you fail, they simply won’t offer you the job.
- Drug/Alcohol Related Probation- As with anything in the court system it depends on a number of factors. Most probation programs will also use the test cup. If you fail and maintain cleanliness, the same sample will likely be sent to a testing facility for further examination. If you fail that, you have violated your probation terms and your fate lies in the hand of your probation officer or judge. You’ll want to be clean or diluted, as you will normally be watched by a probation officer.
- Serious Probation/Job Incident- I don’t know exactly what test federal probation uses, but I would guess the EMIT. For employer-given tests due to a worker’s comp application or a work-related accident, they will almost always use an EMIT or even GC/MS. In fact, I believe the insurance company requires this, not necessarily the business itself. You will go to a testing facility, and likely enter unsupervised in a private room. Real-substitution or a break from usage plus dilution is recommended, as synthetic can be detected.
- Military The military almost exclusively uses Radio ImmunoAssay (RIA), and you NEED to be clean. You will be closely watched (inspected), and this test is extremely accurate and notoriously difficult to trick. Other high-security-clearance employment positions will also use either this or the GC/MS test.
Many chemicals are known to produce false positives, much to the chagrin of the unsuspecting test subject. Many medications (including over-the-counter) will trip a drug test, as well as some various foods. Some tests have been altered to reduce the number of false positives, but they still exist, and it’s still wise to take measures against them. False positives can even be caused by your own body. For the most part you’ll generally be ok with modern tests, but there are still some substances you’d be smart to avoid in the few days before a test.
- Any cough syrup – DXM or dextromethorphan is an opioid agonist, and it can confuse a test into thinking you have opiate metabolites in your urine.
- Allergy medicine – Anything with pseudoephedrine or any -ephedrine can trip a test for amphetamine or MDMA usage. Best to steer clear of all of them; a runny nose is better than the alternative
- OTC or prescription Stimulants – It should probably go without saying that things like Adderall (amphetamine salts) would trip a test for amphetamine, but now it’s said. No excuses.
- “Legal weed” blends (or synthetic cannabinoids) – Ever since the K2 and Spice craze of 2010, more tests have been including these drugs in their line-up. They will show up under THC.
There are a number of test-proof drugs, including substitutes for almost any known illicit chemical available. The following few should go undetected by any of the lower-end tests like the cup/strip. I have personally had luck with:
- Tramadol – This is an opioid class of drug. It does not release the same metabolites as any other popular opiate/opioid, so it is not tested for. It can be tested for if desired, as can anything.
- Synthetic cannabinoids – But wait, I just said they can trip the tests! Well, there are so many of these, it is nigh on impossible for the drug test developers to cover all the bases. Steer clear of the common chemicals (like the JWH- series), and you might have luck inconspicuously fulfilling your weed need.
- Ketamine – Dissociative. Can be likened to PCP or DXM, but it’s not really close to either of those. Regardless, it does not show up on drug tests.
- Psychedelics – Pick your poison. Not a psychedelic I know of will show up on a drug test. Hell, most of them are out of your system in less than 12 hours.
- Cyclobenzaprine/Carisoprodol – Also known as Soma, relaxes the body and mind. And you can be truly relaxed knowing it won’t be counted against you.
To clarify, all of these drugs CAN technically be tested for, they just simply aren’t. If you are suspected of using one in particular on probation, they can and will send a sample to the lab requesting a test for a specific substance. Be extremely careful with this.
I hope this information is helpful, I have been through the drug screening wringer many, many times. A page like this is what I always tried to find, but never could. I will continue to update this as needed, but if you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to leave one below, or even e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: 5 panel, 7 panel, 9 panel, beating drug tests, drug screening, EMIT, employer drug test, false positive, GC/MS, hair test, How To, icup, istrip, lotus, military drug test, pre-employment screening, probation drug test, RIA, stoner essentials, tramadol drug test, urinalysis, urine test