This article originally appeared on VICE US.
I like to consider myself a pro on beating drug tests because I’ve passed numerous—even some close calls—while on probation, in prison, and on parole. I would have only tested positive for weed, but a dirty for marijuana could’ve sent me to “the hole” for 60 days or back to prison when I hit the street. I passed my first drug test when I was out on bond in 1991. I was getting ready to embark on a journey as a fugitive and had to pass the urine tests as a condition of my bond. But there was no way I was going to stop smoking marijuana. That was my lifeline back then. I went to the local head shop in Northern Virginia and bought a bottle of Golden Seal. I took the capsules, drank tons of water, and passed the test. One of many.
I’m not an expert and I’ve never heard of a magic bullet, but from being involved with drugs, being around addicts and ex-addicts, and from my own experiences I know cocaine, heroin, and speed are all out of your system in a couple of days. The same for LSD, which I’m not even sure can be tested for. Weed is the tough one, though, especially for a hardcore smoker. THC stays in your body for up to three weeks or more if the person is hefty. It gets in your fat cells. The important thing to remember is to drink a ton of water and try to pee it out beforehand. You don't want to give them concentrated morning piss. You want it as diluted as possible when you take the test. That’s what I’ve learned taking literally hundreds of urine tests. I’ve also written about the many ways that prisoners beat them.
I took my last drug test in January 2016, when I got off federal probation, and I’ve been toking up ever since. But with so many people getting drug tested these days and the outdated War on Drugs mentality still prevalent, it's still not a terrible idea to know how to beat these things when they come up. As such, I contacted two experts on the subject for VICE.
Barry Cooper is a former drug agent and current drug expert/humanitarian who’s been featured on VICE before. He’s been teaching how to pass a drug test for over 12 years and has a website, Never Get Busted. Paul Armentano is NORML’s Deputy Director. NORML has been a player in the marijuana legalization effort since the jump. I talked to both by phone to find out the best way to beat a drug test, if the stuff they sell at the local head shop works, and what home remedies can help beat a drug test. Here’s what they had to say.
Can the stuff they sell at the local head shop help you beat a dirty urine?
Barry Cooper: Yeah, 100-percent. What I tell people, if they don't have time to buy from a good online source, go to the local head shop and ask the clerk what their best detoxifier is. And it's important not to say "Drug detoxifier" or "I'm on probation" or “employment drug test" because they won't sell it to you. They're not allowed to sell these [items] to pass a drug test. That's why they're sold as detoxifiers. The local head shops have the right product to beat the tests that are being used locally in that court [district]. That's why I tell people to go to the head shop in whatever court jurisdiction they're in, that's the store they need to go to, to buy their stuff.
Paul Armentano: This is a game of cat and mouse. There are products that work for a period of time. And then the drug testing industry becomes aware of such products, and they impose countermeasures that tend to make the use of those products obsolete. Then the industry that has sprung up to try and help people thwart drug tests comes up with new potential strategies. That sort of cat-and-mouse game has literally been going on for decades. I'd also add that most of the products available in those sort of facilities that involve consuming any sort of fluid, by and large, are simply diuretics and they may work to some degree, but they're largely overpriced and they certainly over promise.
You always hear people talk about putting bleach or detergent in the urine and the like, any truths to these home remedies?
Armentano: Well, there's different strategies people employ prior to taking a test. With a product that is going to lower the sensitivity of the test. Another option is the use of an adulterant, which is something that is added to the sample itself in hopes that that's going to create a false negative result. When it comes to the latter adulterants, again that's your sort of perfect example of a cat-and-mouse game. There are certainly products that, when added to urine, can throw off the sensitivity of the test. In most cases, over time, the drug testing industry becomes aware of what those adulterants are, and they either begin to screen for the adulterant itself, or they check some sort of composition of the urine that they anticipate will be altered when an adulterant is used.
Cooper: There are home remedies that work, but they don't work 100-percent. There are so many different factors in terms of being able to fool these drug tests. I tell people all the time I wouldn't take my chance with lemon juice and cinnamon and several other things you can mix together, that's one home drink that works sometimes. I just wouldn't take a chance with my freedom on those. I would go to a local head shop or go online and buy from a good source because that's the only way to really pass excepting abstinence.
What about dilution? How much water should your drink?
Cooper: There's a rhyme that says, "The solution to pollution is dilution." There's a lot of truth to that. The problem is when we dilute and drink a lot of water—the idea is to drink it an hour before your test—you pee really nothing but water. The amounts of THC are not high enough to be detectable. The problem is that the color of the urine is the same color as pure water. When they see that, it's usually flagged as a test that's been tampered with. That's why a lot of these products, these detox drinks, they tell you to drink a lot of water with it. But it has niacin and other colorings added to it on purpose so your urine is a normal color after diluting.
Armentano: The test itself is screening for metabolites, which are breakdown products of certain active drugs. The test is going to be more sensitive or more likely to detect those metabolites when the urine is concentrated. The less concentrated or the more diluted the sample is, the less sensitive or accurate the test is going to be. Consuming any sort of fluid, but particularly diuretic fluids, in the hours prior to a test is going to lead to a less concentrated sample, and thus is going to lead to a less sensitive test result. But of course, drug testing labs are well aware of people trying to dilute their urine through the use of fluids, and there's a number of different ways they try to test to see if a sample is overly diluted or not. Again, it's all cat-and-mouse kind of game.
What about the THC sticks to fat cells argument?
Different metabolites have different half-lives. Cannabis is different [than] cocaine. That has to do with the makeup of the metabolite itself. Carboxy-THC is lipid-soluble. Cocaine's metabolite is water-soluble. A water-soluble metabolite is going to be broken down and excreted as waste by the body much more quickly than will a fat-soluble metabolite. It's literally simply the chemistry of THC that makes it present for a far longer time than it would otherwise be. Someone's metabolic rate may influence some variation of how long that process is going to take. But at a fundamental level, drug tests are going to be much more likely to identify someone who uses cannabis as opposed to someone who uses other drugs, simply because cannabis' metabolite is fat-soluble and most other drug metabolites are water-soluble.
Cooper: THC does hide in the fat cells. It hides in the fat cells of every body—no matter their weight. These detoxifier drinks, exercising, and drinking a lot of water prior to a test can flush those things out of the system. It's a two layer protection system. The detoxifiers will help get the THC out of the fat cells and they also supply something in case it didn't get all of it. It covers THC leaks and hides that from the testers.
What do you think is the best way to beat a dirty urine?
Cooper: The detox business is a multi-million dollar industry. It's such a competitive money-maker because there are so many people being drug tested. It’s gangster out there, man, it's such a big business because the drinks and these products do work. They keep people out of jail. I have one page that's called "How To Pass Your Drug Test." I've worked on it for over eight years now, and it's received millions and millions of views. On that page, there's a link to the products that I have used that worked and the products I endorse. On Never Get Busted and the "How to Pass Your Drug Test" page I teach how to pass the drug test, how to use the product properly, and people can click on the links that order the product.
Armentano: Abstinence is the only sure-fire way to beat a drug test. And of course, drug tests and labs are human. It's even possible that somebody may have never been exposed to illicit drugs and could have an unfortunate incidence where their test comes back positive anyway. That's why our samples are generally split into an A sample and a B sample. In case something like that happens.
Are their any over the counter or internet products you recommend?
Armentano: I wouldn't feel comfortable endorsing any product. Particularly products that are sold over the internet.
Cooper: Test Clear and Pass Your Test. I know that shit works. For the last 12 years I've been working to keep people out of jail. These detox drinks do that. And the detox products for the hair follicles [work also]. I've been doing this a long time. They work.
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