We've run across a lot of myths about drug tests. Finally, we got fed up with second-hand info, and called Dr. James Rhee, Director of Medical Toxicology at the University of Chicago Hospitals. He told us how you can pass a drug test, and when you're just screwed and need to get your resume in order.
By Ruth Welte Mon Dec 29 2008
Photograph by Marzena Abrahamik
Myth 1: Marijuana can stay in your system for over a month, so even if your last joint was weeks ago, it could cost you your job today. Doc says: That’s dependent on how often you use marijuana. For heavy, chronic users, the marijuana can get in to your body and can deposit into a lot of tissues and stay in your body for weeks. So, that much is true.
Myth 2: If you’re fat, you’re more likely to test positive. Doc says: Yeah, that’s in general true. Again, a big variable is the amount that you use. If you’re not using that much, it doesn’t matter how big you are. But the thought is that if you’re big and a heavy user, there’s a potential that it can last in your system for a very long time.
Myth 3: Drinking a jar of pickle juice can help you pass a drug test. Doc says: I would say that’s completely inaccurate. I would like to know the source of that myth. There are a lot of people who feel that dilution in general can help you thwart a drug test—drinking lots of water. In a sense, that may happen. But, one of the standards that they use when testing for drugs is they look at how dilute your urine is, so if your urine is too dilute, that specimen is thrown out.
Myth 4: Second hand marijuana smoke can cause you to fail a drug test, like Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, who tested positive for THC after winning an Olympic gold, but claimed it was the result of second hand smoke only? Doc says: That’s why there are certain thresholds in urine drug screening. They’ve adjusted it for sensitivity just to make sure that you’re not picking up low levels. [The test] is really for someone who’s been using a heavy amount of the drug itself. But the drug testing done on athlete is different from that done for employment purposes. Their drug tests are a lot stricter. Still, I don’t think his claim is real. I don’t know what the threshold that they used for detection was, but usually it’s set to a point where if they’re just ambiently exposed to a drug, it shouldn’t set it off.
Myth 5: Marijuana can stay in your hair for three years. Doc says: I think that could possibly occur. If marijuana is taken up into your hair, definitely it stays there. That’s one of the reasons that we do hair testing for drugs, because you can test back in time farther.
Myth 6: Drinking cranberry juice will help you pass a test. Doc says: This is another thing, like dilution, where people are trying to modify their body fluids. In this case, you’re trying to modify the pH of your urine. That’s again one of those myths that’s out there that doesn’t really pan out. One of the things that people need to be aware of is that if your urine looks like it’s been modified to any degree, whenthero it’s ph or through dilution, those specimens tend to be thrown out, and they’ll ask for a repeat specimen.
Myth 7: Taking the herb golden seal to help you pass a drug test. Doc says: Golden seal? [laughter, amused yelling in background] My colleague here actually just gave a talk on golden seal. So: no. Golden seal tea will not get you off the hook.
Myth 8: If you lose weight, drugs that had been stored in your fat cells are released, so you could fail a drug test months and months after taking the drug. Doc says: I don’t know about “months and months,” but there is a physiologic basis for that myth. You can store drugs I your body fat…so as your are metabolizing through that body fat as you’re losing weight, you may be releasing more of that drug into your system.
Okay, listen, is there any good way to pass a marijuana test? Doc says: Are you familiar with the Whizzinator?…[talking in the background] Oh, my colleague is telling me the Whizzinator has been taken off the market. One of the reasons that people keep getting caught with the whizzinator is that we check the temperature of the urine. If the urine is not at body temperature, that’s a signal that someone is trying to substitute urine. That’s one of the more—I don’t know how to say it—one of the more valid ways to pass a drug test: Use someone else’s urine. That was what the whizzinator was successful at. [The fake sample] has to be at body temperature, and ideally it would be [from someone] of the same sex—they sometimes test for that. It’s very hard to beat the urine screen without either substitution of the urine or not having the drug in your system to begin with.