Household Chemicals as Urine Adulterants

Simple household chemicals are found to be effective adulterants of urine drug tests. These include table salt, vinegar, liquid laundry bleach, concentrated lemon juice, and Visine eye drops (8,9). The effectiveness of these chemicals on specific drug tests is summarized below.

• Amphetamines: sodium chloride at a concentration of 75 gm/L of urine caused a false-negative drug test in a urine specimen containing 1420 ng/mL of amphetamine. Similarly, Drano® (bleach; SC Johnson & Son) at a concentration of 18 mL/L masked a urine specimen containing 1800 ng/mL of amphetamines by EMIT assay.

• Barbiturates: sodium chloride, liquid hand soap, and Drano all masked barbiturates with concentrations up to 1450 ng/mL.

• Benzodiazepines: Visine, hand soap, and Drano caused false-negative tests with benzodiazepines at concentrations less than 6500 ng/mL.

Cocaine: Drano and sodium chloride can mask cocaine screens at BE concentrations up to 1180 ng/mL.

Marijuana: sodium chloride, Drano, goldenseal root, soap, and vinegar all interfered with the marijuana immunoassay tests.

• Opiates: Drano and sodium chloride also interfered with the opiate assays. Urines with opiate up to 2700 ng/mL tested negative in the presence of 125 mL/L of Drano. Sodium chloride interfered only for drug concentrations below 780 ng/mL.

Although there are reports that adulterants interfere less with fluorescence polarization immune assay (FPIA) than with the EMIT assay, others have observed some interference. Sodium chloride caused negative interference with all drugs tested by EMIT and a slight decrease in measured concentrations of benzodiazepines by FPIA. Interestingly, sodium bicarbonate caused a false positive of opiate when assayed by EMIT and of PCP when assayed by FPIA. Hydrogen peroxide also caused a false-positive benzodi-azepine result by FPIA (9).

Schwarzhoff and Cody (10) systematically studied the effect of 16 different adulterating agents by FPIA analysis of urine for abused drugs. The authors tested these adulterating agents at 10% by volume concentration of urine. Out of six drugs tested (cocaine metabolite, amphetamines, opiates, phencyclidine, cannabinoid, and barbiturates), it was found that the cannabinoid test was the most susceptible to adulteration—approximately one-half of the agents (ascorbic acid, vinegar, bleach, lime solvent, Visine eye drops, goldenseal) tested caused false-negative results. Actual degradation of THC in the presence of the adulterants was observed by GC-MS analysis. The PCP and BE (the metabolite of cocaine) analyses were most affected by alkaline agents. Baiker et al. (11) also reported that hypochlorite (a common ingredient of household bleach) adulteration of urine caused decreased concentration of THC to be detected by GC-MS, FPIA, as well as Roche Abuscreen®.

In addition, Uebel and Wium (12) also studied the effect of common household chemicals such as Jik (a South African brand of bleach; sodium hypochlorite), Dettol (Reckitt Benckiser UK; chloroxylenol), G-cide Plus (JAST International; glutaraldehyde), Pearle Hand Soap, ethanol, isopropanol, and peroxide in causing false-negative results when used as adulterants in urine specimens. Most of these chemicals interfered with toxicological screening results using EMIT DOA urine-test reagents. Glutaraldehyde and Pearle Hand Soap had the greatest effect (false negative) on a methaqualone test. Chlorox-ylenol and Pearl Hand Soap also demonstrated maximum effect in causing a false negative in cannabis tests.

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