Lakeland Health Care

Occupational Health and Safety for a Drug Free Workplace

Urban legends, Myths, and Misconceptions

Posted by lakelandhealthcare on December 13, 2011 at 3:55 PM Comments comments (2)

Urban legends, myths, and misconceptions

The increasingly common practice of drug testing has led to an increase in the number of drug users looking for ways to beat the tests, and has spawned a number of myths and urban legends as a result. However, this does not stop users from getting creative in their attempts to somehow shorten the detection times and/or mask the contents of their fluid specimens, with varying degrees of success or lack thereof.

 Drinking vinegar will help you pass This legend is one of the oldest ones in the history of drug testing, and is only partly true. Consumption of vinegar will lower the pH of the blood and urine, and drugs that contain amine groups (such as amphetamines) will be cleared out somewhat faster as their water solubility increases due to protonation. Also, the reduced pH can potentially throw off the pH-sensitive enzymes in a particular type of bioassay (EMIT) often (but not always) used as the initial screening test, even for non-amine-containing drugs such as THC. Also, the effects of urine acidification on detection times (for any substance) are modest at best, often practically insignificant, and drinking vinegar is thus not very reliable as a standalone measure for beating a drug test.

 High doses of niacin will help you pass This legend has been around for at least a decade. Niacin, also known as Vitamin B3, is speciously claimed by some to "burn it out" of one's system when taken at high doses (250–500 mg per day). While some Internet (and other) sources often claim that it works wonders, there is no scientific evidence that it has any effect. Very high doses can also cause adverse side effects.

This legend may have been (inadvertently) inspired by Narconon, a Scientology-based drug rehabilitation program that uses exercise, saunas, and high doses of niacin (and other vitamins) to detox. It is also part of L. Ron Hubbard's general Purification Rundown, which Scientology purports to remove pollutants as well as drug residues. However, there are currently no peer-reviewed scientific studies to back these methods up Drinking urine will help you passVarious (mostly internet) sources claim that human urine contains enzymes which, when ingested, can speed the breakdown of THC in the body. While Cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are partially responsible for breaking down THC (and other drugs), are found in trace amounts in urine, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that they can be made biologically available through ingestion. It is possible that this myth is based on some cultures' beliefs that ingested urine contains strong healing and detoxification properties

 Secondhand exposure will cause you to fail This legend is technically true but highly misleading. According to a U.S. Army study, the amount of secondhand cannabis smoke needed to cause a false positive result (failure) is quite large indeed, and would require being sealed in an unventilated car or small room filled with marijuana smokers for several hours.Hair testing, however, is a different matter, particularly with passive exposure to crack/cocaine, which can deposit onto hair and be readily incorporated into it. Though for cannabis, typically only metabolites (produced by the body and thus not found in smoke) are tested rather than THC, so failure is unlikely to result from non-extreme passive exposure.

 Ibuprofen causes false positives for THC While this was true in the past, newer versions of the EMIT bioassay are much less sensitive to ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.), and this has become relatively uncommon as of 1998, at least in the United States. However, abnormally high doses of ibuprofen can still potentially cause a false positive in some cases. Nonetheless, this no longer works as an alibi for THC since GC/MS can now distinguish between the two 

Poppy seeds cause false positives for opiates Poppy seeds do contain trace amounts of morphine, but it would require about 100 poppy seed bagels to reach enough to cause a positive (failed) test result. Poppy seed-filled pastries (such as hamantashen), on the other hand, do in fact contain enough to potentially cause a false positive.[35] A 1996 episode of the highly popular sitcom Seinfeld may have helped perpetuate this urban legend.

An episode of MythBusters tested this legend, and found that as little as three poppy-seed bagels was enough to cause a positive result for the remainder of the day they were eaten (though participants tested clean the following day). The results of this experiment are inconclusive, however, because a test was used with an opiate cutoff level of 300 ng/mL instead of the current SAMHSA recommended cutoff level used in the NIDA 5 test, which was raised from 300 ng/mL to 2,000 ng/mL in 1998 in order to avoid such false positives from poppy seeds. In addition, one thing poppy seeds do not do is serve as an alibi for heroin: a unique metabolite (6-monoacetylmorphine) is produced from heroin use that is never produced from consuming any other substance, let alone poppy seeds. This, however, is only true when diamorphine is being tested for specifically; most tests do not test for heroin, but rather for opiates and opioids as a group. Modern tests can thus readily tease out whether it was heroin or not, should someone try to claim they merely ate poppy seeds.

 Cannabis remains detectable in urine for 30 days or more While this is technically true in some cases, more recent studies have shown that detection times of 30+ days are actually quite exceptional, even for chronic users subjected to tests with lower than normal cutoffs. Under the typical 50 ng/mL cutoff for THC in the United States, an occasional or one-off user would be very unlikely to test positive beyond 3–4 days since the last use, and a chronic user would be unlikely to test positive much beyond 7 days. Using a more sensitive cutoff of 20 ng/mL (less common but still used by some labs), the most likely maximum times are 7 days and 21 days, respectively. . However, one must remember that every individual is different, and detection times can vary due to metabolism or other factors.

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