Historical Overview

In 1986, the Drug-Free Workplace concept was first introduced, when President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order No. 12564 requiring each federal agency to build up and put into practice policies for the identification of illegal drug use by resident federal employees and the proceedings to be taken in response to identified illegal drug use. Congress later enacted Public Law 100-71 for the implementation of this Executive Order. This law was to ensure uniformity among federal agencies’ drug-testing plans, employee access to drug-testing records, accurate and reliable drug testing, and privacy of drug test results while providing centralized supervision of federal drug-testing programs. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was given the duty of establishing requirements for the drug-free federal place of work programs. This responsibility now rests with the Division of Workplace Programs (DWP in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – SAMHSA), within HHS.

The HHS Obligatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs which were first available in 1988 indicate the scientific and technical course of action to be used for drug testing of civilian federal employees by the US federal agencies and drug-testing laboratories. Other laws and regulations cover the drug testing of military personnel, whose history predates the civilian program. The up to date version of the Mandatory Guidelines was published in the Federal Register on April 13, 2004 with an effectual from November 1, 2004. The Guidelines comprise of the requirements for the certification of laboratories performing US federal employee drug testing. HHS, under the National Laboratory Certification Program – NLCP, certifies the laboratories meeting the strict performance testing (PT) and inspection requirements of the Guidelines. There are somewhat over 40 certified laboratories at present.

The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 required alcohol and drug testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees in trucking, pipelines, railroads, aviation, mass transit, and other transportation industries. The Department of Transportation (DOT) published its regulations file (i.e. DOT Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs) in agreement with this act. Within DOT the Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance (ODAPC) implements, publishes, and provides interpretations of the DOT Regulations. Employers are required to test employee samples at laboratories licensed by HHS, under the DOT Regulations.

It is estimated that over 7 million federally regulated drug tests are conducted each year in HHS-certified laboratories, based on information submitted by certified laboratories to the NLCP. The DOT is the federal agency with the largest records of federally regulated drug-testing samples. As of the fourth quarter of 2007, ODAPC estimated that more than 11 million people are subject to testing under the DOT Regulations.

The materials and techniques used early on in subversion attempts were based primarily on anecdotal information. Some affected the drug test results, mostly depending on the analytical methods used by the testing laboratory, but most subversion attempts were ineffective.

Schwartz et al. in I985 reported one of the first systematic assessments of adulterants. The study evaluated cannabinoid secretion and substances that might affect detection. The original substances used were mainly ordinary household goods. Mikkelsen and Ash evaluated products being used to subvert urine drug experiments: table salt, concentrated lemon juice, liquid laundry bleach (Clorox), vinegar, caustic household cleansers, golden-seal tea, Vainer eye drops and liquid hand soap from restroom dispensers in their article. The authors identified these substances based on a literature search and on interviews with clinical toxicologists, drug abuse treatment center personnel, and admitted drug users.

Early on, the substitution attempts involved the substitution of drug-free urine from another individual, another liquid for the donor’s sample or water. Suitable collection methods including temperature checks identified simple substitution attempts. More extreme measures (e.g., self catheterization with drug-free urine) have been explained. Although these may be based on anecdotal accounts, replacement using such extreme measures could escape uncovering even during an observed collection.

Individuals using drugs also changed drug test consequences using dilution. Dilution was (and still is) accomplished by in vitro (the adding up of liquid to the urine sample at the time of collection) or in viva Excessive ingestion of fluids before providing the specimens means. Dilution can influence the concentration of drugs and metabolites in urine and thus their discovery. The use of diuretics to adulterate urine samples with the intention to avoid exposure was evaluated in a large-scale study which, not surprisingly, detected the use of recommended diuretics among most drug users. Diuretics are tested, not in workplace drug testing, but in sports drug testing for this reason.

With the passage of time, commercial products have emerged that were designed particularly for subverting urine drug experiments. Many are chemicals, in liquid or powder form, that are easily concealed and can be readily added to urine samples. Amongst the early profit-making adulterant products was UrinAid, whose chief constituent was recognized as glutaraldehyde. There are also commercial products developed for in vivo dilution. Some consist of mild diuretic beverages, such as teas, while others are substances that come with instructions to consume with large amounts of fluids.

Initially, these products were promoted in magazines, such as High Times, and then sold in smoking or novelty shops or sold by dietary supplement traders and natural food stores. The products have flourished with the passage of time and the Internet has proven to be an extremely effective means for companies and marketers of these goods. This place offers a huge number of products that are easily purchased and obtained. Moreover, some producers provide help in choosing products based on the employee’s usage patterns, drug of choice and testing circumstances.

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