What is an adulterant and why is it important to test for them?

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Adulteration is the tampering of a urine specimen during collection in which the donor attempts to alter the final test result or outcome. Techniques for specimen tampering or altering are always evolving as individuals develop new and innovative ways to try and ‘cheat’ an impending drug test.

Examples of popular adulterants are:

•Classic or household adulterants such as bleach, salt, eye drops, lemon juice, vinegar, & peroxide.

•Commercial or store-bought adulterants which are frequently sold for purchase online and in certain specialty stores. Creators of adulterants being sold in the current market have created special additives consisting of formulas that will allegedly alter the outcome of the test result by generating a completely negative test result (false negative). The most frequent instructions and corresponding practices, although highly unethical, include the donor discretely transporting the additive product into the collection room and covertly pouring it into the specimen.

Adulterants act by either interfering with the composition of the specimen properties tested in the immunoassay portion of testing or by converting the target drugs to other compounds. Adulterant laboratory analysis measures the urinary characteristics such as creatinine, pH, and specific gravity for existing levels while the presence of nitrate and oxidant activity is also traced.

Adulterants work to change the properties of the specimen so that during the immunoassay portion of the analysis, a reaction will transpire and as a result, a false negative will be produced. Adulterant testing must be requested specifically as adulterants will not be detected unless this particular testing is implemented. When the specimen properties are out of normal range or when significant levels of nitrates or the presence of oxidant activity is found, the test may be canceled and reported to the Medical Review Office for thorough medical review. NTA, Inc. has a highly qualified Medical Review team that is highly experienced in handling this type of testing outcome and we are proud to offer this level of quality to our clients.

Due to scientific and technological advances, adulterated specimens are detected more often than not thanks to the more sophisticated and complex laboratory analysis’ that are being carried out. A 1999-2000 Audit by SAMHSA found 6,440 adulterated specimens went to 66 certified laboratories – Wong, R, 2002 American Clinical Laboratory. It is also important to include that the Department of Transportation now requires adulteration testing on all specimens tested within the federal guidelines.

When a company implements a drug-testing program, it is recommended that they include adulterant testing in their lab panel as well as their instant drug screening devices. Adulteration is a consistent issue in the world of drug testing and it is imperative that corporations and agencies remain vigilant while working to combat and circumvent the alarming trend that is adulteration.

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