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Local 12 on 1/27/2020
CINCINNATI (WKRC) – Drug abuse continues to leave a tragic trail.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70,237 people died from drug overdoses in 2017 alone.
Drug abuse is also expensive, The Council of Economic Advisors estimates the cost of the opioid crisis in 2018 cost $696 billion in the value of lost lives, as well as increases in health care and substance abuse treatment costs, increases in criminal justice costs, and reductions in productivity.
That’s why so many corporations and businesses rely upon drug tests of new and current employees. But that system works only if the tests are reliable.
A Local 12 Investigation examined a popular product that experts say allows addicts and users to cheat on urinalysis (UA), the most common type of drug test, which doctors say could lead to deadly outcomes.
INGREDIENTS NORMALLY FOUND IN URINE
Quick Fix PLUS is made by Spectrum Labs in Cincinnati and comes in a bright yellow box, which proclaims its product is “urea,” which “Contains other ingredients normally found in urine,” which the company claims is, “Balanced for pH, specific gravity and other characteristics.
It’s a leading product in the growing number of synthetic urines now flooding the market. [Editor’s Note: Local 12 repeatedly reached out to Spectrum Labs for comment. No one has yet returned our calls and emails.]
Under the Quick Fix PLUS logo, the packaging reads, “NOVELTY SYNTHETIC URINE.” Other makers describe their products at “FETISH URINE.”
None of the manufacturers of synthetic urine products that we found claimed their products were made for use in a drug test, but drug testing companies say addicts and users are using these products for that purpose.
THE LABS KNOW
Brandi Brewer, owner of FasTest Labs North Cincinnati answered without hesitating when asked how synthetic urine was being used.
“To fake a drug test,” she said.
She knows about synthetic urine because she says she and her employees discover it a lot on people who come in for their drug tests.
When shown the box of Quick Fix PLUS, Brewer said, “I’ve definitely seen this one before,” adding that the maker is able to get the ingredients, pH and specific gravity close to the real thing.
WHAT’S INSIDE THE BOX?
We asked Brewer to open the box and examine the contents, which include a three-ounce battle of yellow liquid, a heat pad, a rubber band and instructions.
Next, she followed the instructions, placing the bottle in the microwave for 10 seconds, heating it between 94 and 100 degrees.
“So, it is literally explaining exactly what we do when we’re running a drug test,” Brewer observed.
The instructions also tell you to “Use the rubber band to attach the activated heat pack which will maintain the temperature.”
The bottle even has a temperature strip that looks like the strip attached to the collection cup at the Brewer’s lab.
“You, yourself are able to read it and know when the right timeframe is to go in and take the test,” Brewer said.
PASSING THE TEST
Next, we asked Brewer to test the now-heated synthetic urine to see if it passes for the real thing. It was placed in a cup, placed on a receptacle in front of a smart tablet and screened.
As a computer program ran, Brewer explained, “That’s kind of where the magic is happening.”
When the scan was completed, the synthetic urine not only passed for the real thing, the screen clearly showed no drugs were detected.
“Negative,” Brewer observed, adding, “Sixteen different drug families, temperature in range.”
If this had been the sample from a real person who used synthetic urine to cheat the drug test, Brewer said the results were clear.
“They passed,” she said.
“It’s just reprehensible,” said Dr. Laura Yard, director of addiction services at the Lindner Center of Hope, said, when we asked her about synthetic urine.
The reason? Dr. Yard says urine screening is an important tool to check whether an addict has relapsed.
“If people decide to submit fake urine, that makes our job harder,” Dr. Yard said, adding, “This person is at risk for overdose and death. So, this is a life-and-death issue.”
Dr. Yard says urine samples are collected at the Lindner Center under the watchful eye of a camera, but that’s not the case at other testing facilities, which conduct quick body checks and allow individuals to produce a sample alone in a bathroom behind a closed door.
That leaves it wide open for many who are being tested to turn to synthetic urine.
“It happens all the time, unfortunately,” Dr. Yard noted.
STILL LEGAL IN OHIO
At least eighteen states, including Indiana and Kentucky, have laws that criminalize the sale or use of synthetic urine.
Ohio, which is still suffering from high numbers of drug overdoses, does not.
State Sen. Theresa Gavarone, a Republican from Bowling Green, Ohio, was surprised by the numbers of states that have already taken action, so she introduced SB 156, a bill to make the manufacture, sale and use of synthetic urine in Ohio illegal.
“My bill makes it a crime to use these kinds of products to basically falsify a drug test,” Gavarone said.
While it has yet to pass from a bill to the law of the land, many Ohio legislators support Gavarone’s efforts, including the powerful Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Larry Householder, a Republican from Glenford, who noted that using synthetic urine for cheating a drug test is, “just pure fraud.”