As the man in the white lab coat followed him into the bathroom, Nathan Vickery felt calm and relaxed.
Just a few hours prior, while smoking weed with some friends, he got a text informing him he had been selected for a random drug screening for his school’s tennis team. This was his first drug test, but Vickery had a trick up his pant leg.
“I used something called a ‘Whizzinator,’” Vickery said. “It’s basically a fake penis.”
Employee drug screenings have become more common during the past 15 years. At the same time, the number of college students who smoke marijuana has risen from 30 to 38 percent since 2006, according to a study done by Monitoring the Future, an organization that monitors American youth.
Whether it is for a prospective job, a school sport or staying on the law’s good side, many students will probably have to take a drug test at some point. For frequent smokers like Vickery, this might cause pressure to falsify or cheat on drug tests. The 21-year-old has passed multiple drug tests using the phony phallus, but there are many other ways someone might influence their test results.
Here are five ways people pass drug tests:
1. Don't do drugs, at least for a while
It may be common sense, but one way to pass a drug test is to not do drugs. It would seem impossible to fail a test if no drugs have been taken.
However, Pseudoephedrine, Ibuprofen and supplements or foods containing hemp seed oil may cause false positives, according to studies done by Medline Plus and the Mayo Clinic. Also, Drinking tonic water might cause a test to register for opiates or quinine, according to study from the journal Addictive Behaviors.
For the most part, those who’ve never smoked have little to fear, but for the for the one out of 22 students who smoke marijuana on an almost daily basis knowing how long drugs stay in the body could make a big difference.
Smoking marijuana a single time can cause the THC — or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active substance in marijuana — to be detected for up to three days after use, according to studies done by the Mayo Clinic.
Smoking marijuana four times a week can be detected for up to five days, daily use can be detected for up to 10 days and “chronic heavy use” can be detected up to 30 days.
The length of time marijuana can be detected in a person’s urine can vary because of many factors, such as a person’s metabolic processes, dietary habits and exercise habits, said Kelly Dobbins, president of Mid-South Drug Testing.
“Marijuana attaches to fat cells, so depending on how fat you are can be a factor in how long marijuana stays in your system,” Dobbins said.
2. I can’t believe it’s not urine.
On its website, the Whizzinator is described as a “discreet synthetic urine device that is safe for all types of scenarios.”
“It has straps that go around your legs and waist and a little thing of fake pee,” said Vickery, the tennis player who passed that drug test. “It even has a pouch for some HotHands to keep it warm. After I used it the first time, I knew I was golden.”
Although the product claims it is “not intended for any illegal purpose” and “is not to be used to defeat lawfully administered drug tests,” the lifelike member comes in a variety of skin-toned colors.
As Vickery’s story illustrates, it might fool both the lab and observers who might be present. But without something to put inside it, students looking to fool a drug tester will be left holding their Whizzinator.
Synthetic urine is usually used by drug testing labs to calibrate equipment, so it is difficult for monitors to determine whether the urine is real. The fake pee has the same pH, acidity and color as the real deal.
“Labs use it primarily to test the reagents (testing samples), but I don’t know that we would even know that it’s synthetic,” Dobbins said. “And the lab doesn’t report that it’s synthetic. It looks like urine – it smells like urine. You wouldn’t think it isn’t urine.”
Lab technicians are looking for an accurate urine temperature within the range of normal body temperatures, or from 96 to 100 degrees, Dobbins said. So, walking in with a bag of fake and cool urine will likely result in a rejected sample.
3. Use detox products.
There are many detoxification products on the market, some of which advertise the ability to either temporarily or “permanently cleanse” one’s body of the traces of drugs.
“There are things they sell in head shops (smoke shops) that you can drink,” Dobbins said. “Most of it you drink within a certain time frame. If you’re trying to hide marijuana, most of that stuff works, unfortunately.”
These products work by temporarily allowing the user to drink enough water to dilute the metabolites in their urine. The drink replaces those vitamins and nutrients that the tests normally measure urine for pH, acidity, creatine, protein and color. The urine does not show up as being diluted because those components have been replaced, so these drinks might work for light smokers.
Camille Jones, a student at Southwest Tennessee Community College, passed her drug test by using a product called fruit pectin.
“It hides the presence of metabolized THC in your body, and you can buy it at Kroger in the Jell-O aisle,” Jones said. “You have to drink it four hours before a test and after the four hours are up, it doesn’t work as well.”
Because THC byproducts are stored in the body’s fat cells, a user might be able to naturally flush their system by avoiding fatty foods, drinking lots of water and exercising.
4. Borrow urine from family and friends.
Despite there being a market for synthetics and masking products, the most common way people try to fake a test is to bring in the urine of a friend or relative.
“I know that more people bring in other people’s urine,” Dobbins said. “Out of 30 drug tests today, you’ll have 10 people bring in someone else’s urine.”
A fake penis can cost upward of $100. It is much more common for someone to tape a bag to their leg or hide it in a bra, Dobbins said.
Drug test administrators know that many people will try to fake a test and are careful to check for properties like temperature and color. If caught, ramifications can be serious.
“Anybody that brings in someone else’s urine and tries to use it to fake the test is considered a positive test,” Dobbins said. “As far as I know, courts, schools and employers universally consider this the same as a positive test.”
In some fields, a positive test will require the test taker to attend drug awareness programs and complete monthly screenings for up to a year, assuming they keep their job, Dobbins said.
5. Location, location, location.
One loophole that might be used to pass a drug test is to not get tested. The industries that screen their employees most are related to safety, transportation or the government, Dobbins said.
“One area that we’re still not seeing a lot of drug testing in is the restaurant industry – that and hairdressers,” Dobbins said.
Even if a person lives in a state where marijuana is legal, like Colorado, it can still be grounds for dismissal. In a 2015 case, the Colorado Supreme Court sided with Dish Network after it fired an employee for testing positive, even though his doctor had prescribed it. He also proved he had not smoked marijuana on the job.
In states where marijuana is legal recreationally or medicinally, the issue of drug testing is becoming more complicated. However, Tennessee is not one of those states.
The state government incentivizes businesses to conduct drug education and screening through the Tennessee Drug Free Workplace program with insurance and workers’ compensation benefits. The program cites data supporting the argument that drug use in the workplace can affect productivity, absenteeism and workers’ compensation cases.
While it is possible for a state to pass laws making a falsified drug test a crime, most states will avoid getting directly involved with the relationship between employer and employee, University of Memphis law professor Barbara Kritchevsky said.
“It seems unlikely that states would want to intrude on the employment relationship. Some states might have penalties for cheating on drug test, but in the employment context, this is likely to be a matter between the employer and the employee,” Kritchevsky said.
Memphis is the fourth highest drug-screening city in the country, behind only Houston, Indianapolis and Los Angeles, according to National Drug Screening, Inc.