Monday, January 02, 2012

Things I Learned at Drug Testing

I failed my drug test. The results came back "negative dilute", which means that they didn't find anything bad but the concentration didn't meet spec. So all that advice about how healthy it is to drink lots of water gets complicated when it's time to pee-in-the-bottle. The drug testers were noncommital on whether or not over-hydrating would actually hide drug use, but even people who submit samples judged "positive dilute" are given the opportunity to retest. In my case, the second time through I drank no water that morning, only coffee. That seemed to do the trick. In other news, it turns out that Civil Service drug tests give you privacy. Military drug testers are required to observe the sample leave your person. (I have no idea how this works for women.)

5 comments:

Default User said...

I believe that in cases where they do not witness the delivery of the sample, they test the temperature. So I guess another way to fail would be "negative-cold."

Dexter said...

I was at a test once where some idiot sneaked in a bag of someone else's pee and heated it up in the microwave. Yeah dude, we believe that pee came out of you boiling hot!

postgygaxian said...

Americans waste time on neo-puritanical witch-hunting; meanwhile the rest of the world is diversifying away from the Federal Reserve Note and preparing for the post-American economy.

America's "War on Drugs" is somewhat like the USSR's Lysenkoism. It's amazing how great powers love to shoot their own feet.

Dr. Φ said...

The fun part is that, if the movie The Program (1993) is any guide, hardcore users will actually pump a clean sample into their bladders right before a test.

Somehow, though, sometimes the tests actually catch people, though probably only casual or dumb users.

glowplant said...

It's a bit of an arms race. In the past drug tests simply looks for threshold concentrations of particular contraband substances or (more likely) the metabolites which result after the digestive system and liver's had their way with them.

So the classic response was to drink very large quantities of water or electrolyte-drink to both flush the substances out of your body and dilute the concentration of whatever remained in your urine sample. This is effective, so a counter-tactic was required.

That counter was to test for "Creatinine", which is produced in your muscles at a fairly constant rate from the breakdown of the rapid-release energy-storage molecule Phosocreatine. There isn't really anything else that's always in your urine that provides such a useful measure of hydration or dilution, so it's fairly ideal.

So the next step in the arms race, of course, is to continue flushing with lots of electrolyte-drink but also consume large amounts of protein and creatine-supplements, and then get a good full-body muscular workout prior to a test, to artificially spike the production - and thus urine concentration - of creatinine.

And you can already guess that now we have spiking tests, but they are very rarely used at this point.

The real problem is that no one wants to do a two-stage test. You could surprise someone one day, weigh them, have them drink a known quantity of marker substance, and then test them the next day - using the quantity of marker substance as a calibration tool to adjust the thresholds for contraband-metabolites. Now maybe you should drink nothing at all because lots of marker means we need to find lots of contraband to justify a finding of "positive" (and vice versa mutatis mutandis ...)