- Ganja God
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The drugs you did last night, the drugs you did last week and the drugs you did last New Year's Eve-they're all in there, embedded or encoded in your urine, sweat, hair, saliva and blood. Not so long ago, the body was inviolate, a temple the law could not enter, but bad science and contemptible courts have since combined to make drug testing a part of American life, giving rise to a multibillion-dollar-per-year industry that exists solely to break the body into measurable pieces and detail your private life for the benefit of your employer or your government. Despite the Fourth Amendment's clear guarantee of a right to privacy, courts have granted increasingly broad authority for random, suspicionless drug testing, and what was unthinkable in this country a generation ago is now taken for granted today. But the news is not all bad.
"The number of employers conducting drug testing is in a long-term decline," Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, reports. "And most employers who do test, only test for preemployment."
Maltby cites figures from American Management Association member surveys that show a steady drop in private-sector drug testing, from a peak of 81 percent in 1996 down to 62 percent in 2004. Why the drop?
"Employers are beginning to realize that drug testing is not producing any improvement in the bottom line," Maltby says. "Most employers who bought into drug testing did so because the government and the drug-test industry promised it would increase safety and productivity, and that promise was not kept."
Still, even as these economic realities finally sink in among the managers of corporate America, the federal government continues to tout drug testing as a magic-bullet solution, and cannabis smokers remain caught in their crosshairs. Remember, marijuana is by far the most widely used illicit drug and therefore the most widely detected substance in drug testing. Twenty-five million Americans smoked pot last year, and THC stays in the body for a relatively long time compared to other drugs-two factors that make marijuana the ideal target for the drug-test market. In fact, it's fair to say that there could never be a widespread drug-test industry if marijuana weren't outlawed.
So there's good news and bad news. As always, a stoner needs to stay alert and know the facts, because despite the popular joke, you really can study for a drug test.
THE URINE TEST
Urine testing is often referred to as the gold standard of the drug-test industry, and, all bad puns aside, they're not just talking about the color of your piss. Most of the 50 million drug tests performed in this country last year were urine tests-the least expensive and most common form of testing, at once highly invasive and, by now, fully integrated into American life.
When it comes to passing a urine test, you must put time on your side, specifically by allowing for time between your drug use and your drug test. Most banned substances pass through the body quickly (cocaine, for example, will disappear after a few days), but pesky THC abides in fat cells like a moocher crashing on your couch, remaining detectable in urine for as long as four weeks. So while a single smoke on Friday night will probably disappear by Monday, anything beyond the most casual toke needs more time.
Fortunately, as the urine-test industry has matured, so has the urine-test-solutions industry, which now offers a variety of approaches to beating the tests. A daily detox drink will lessen the amount of THC stored in your body and thus cut the time needed to cleanse. A quick flush will greatly increase the chances of passing the test, but it's imperative that at least 48 to 72 hours pass from toxin to test. That means not smoking for several days before the big day, or the quick flush won't work. If that's not an option, then a substitution or spike is needed. A substitution is just what the name implies: clean urine substituted for its tainted counterpart. A spike, on the other hand, is a small vial of chemicals covertly added to your specimen that adulterates the results. Spikes are available from several drug-detox companies.
Privacy is required to put a spike in play, so if someone will be hovering over the process while you pee, and you've gotten high in the last 72 hours, then your best bet is the infamous Whizzinator-a faux phallus that gives new meaning to the term "tool." It may take a steady hand and nerves of steel to whip out a prosthetic pecker as the tester observes from over your shoulder, but as Congress learned last spring, thousands have aced the Whiz Quiz with the help of this ingenious device.
THE HAIR TEST
Despite its growing popularity among drug warriors, hair testing remains one of the most flawed testing platforms in use. It works by detecting drug metabolites passively diffused from the blood stream to the base of the hair follicle. With a pencil-thick sample about an inch and a half long, hair-test labs can detect drug use within the past three months-including patterns of use, such as if you smoked pot, stopped for a month and then smoked again.
For those with very short hair, labs will take a sample from any available part of the body. "Hair is not ready for prime time and it probably never will be," Maltby explains. "The problem with hair testing stems from the very low concentrations that they look for-traces of drugs that are at least two orders of magnitude lower than urine testing. So if the hair is not absolutely clean-if there's the smallest microscopic trace of drugs left on the hair after washing-it will cause a false positive because the true positive concentrations they're looking for are so low."
Maltby insists that the hair-test industry is fully aware of the problem. "They tried for 10 years to develop a washing program that is sufficiently thorough to avoid false positives," he says. "They simply can't do it."
Environmental contaminants are the big problem for hair testing. Microscopic amounts of smoke and powders cling to the hair shaft and wind up as a trace amount on a false-positive hair test. To make matters worse, contaminants cling to dark, coarse hair much more readily-making African-Americans, Latinos and Asians significantly more susceptible to a false-positive result. According to one report, people with dark hair are 10 to 50 times more likely to test positive for drug use from a hair-follicle drug test.
"If the hair-test industry can't get white people's hair clean, then they'll never get black people's hair clean," Maltby says bluntly, "which means they have a racial-discrimination problem."
Aside from abstinence, the best way to beat a hair test is to use one of the many follicle shampoos available from a variety of retail outlets on the Internet and elsewhere. Shampoo manufacturers used to guarantee good results until recently, when revised testing standards significantly lowered the cutoff on hair tests. These new standards are not federally mandated (yet) and not all labs have adopted them (yet), but there's currently no way to determine which cutoff a lab will use. Shampoo manufacturers have begun reformulating their products to once again guarantee effectiveness, but until this next generation of products emerges, the original follicle shampoos remain the best (and only) option for stoners facing the hair scare.
THE SWEAT TEST
The sweat test is a small square patch worn on the body for an extended period of time. It's relatively uncommon and usually relegated to test subjects who have a diminished expectation of privacy, such as prisoners, those on probation or parole and military personnel. Manufacturers claim the sweat patch is tamper-proof and no commercial products exist to suborn the device, but one ex-GI did write in to offer HIGH TIMES his ad-hoc solution to the sweat test:
"Right after they put the patch on me, I went home and took a hair dryer and I put it right up to the patch and I held it there for a long time. It got so hot I could barely stand it, but little by little I could pull away just one of the four sides of the patch. Then I took a piece of aluminum foil and slid it in between the patch and my skin and left it there the whole time I wore the damn thing. I puffed like normal, and just before I went to have the patch removed, I pulled out the foil. I put a little adhesive glue on the open edge so it would stick to my skin and passed the patch test with flying colors."
Maybe so, but is sounds like no matter what you do, you're going to get burned.
THE BLOOD TEST
Blood testing is not only the most invasive form of drug testing, it's also the most accurate. If you're a stoner scheduled to give blood for a drug test, you're pretty much screwed - at least in the short term. Happily, drugs disappear from the blood stream in a very short time. Stay away from toxins for twenty-four to forty-eight hours and your blood should be clean as a whistle. Also remember that the blood test is the most expensive, which means blood tests are the least common method of scrutiny. Legal herbs that clean the blood are easily detected in a blood test, so there are not a lot of options other than to wait it out (and, really, if you can't chill out for twenty-four hours you've got a bigger problem than a drug test). But it's all academic. Unless there's a lot of money or a lot of law at stake, the odds say you'll never be compelled to give blood.
THE SALIVA TEST
In April 2004, when the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) suggested new regulations and procedures for drug testing, it requested that saliva testing be added to the repertoire. Even as the request was made, SAMHSA admitted, "Less is known about the pharmacokinetics and disposition of drugs into oral fluid as compared to urine." Meanwhile, government science showed that almost all other drugs enter oral fluid through diffusion from the bloodstream into saliva, but THC does not. Not at all.
Saliva tests that detect marijuana in the mouth therefore cannot differentiate between use ("I smoked a joint") and environmental contamination ("I was in the room when you smoked the joint"). The Department of Health and Human Services suggested a procedural make-good to compensate for the medium's inherent limitations: "In order to protect federal workers from incorrect test results for marijuana, the Department proposes that a second biological specimen, a urine specimen, will need to be collected."
Since the saliva-test window is only good for spotting the most recent use (two to three days), after that time has passed your spit will be as clean as a nonuser. Nevertheless, the saliva test is increasingly popular with the drug warriors since it's considered less invasive than the urine test and hence provides them with a bit of political cover. As with the urine test, they plan to fix its flaws as they go along. So even though SAMHSA's request to formalize saliva has not yet gone through, workers in the private sector may be asked to open wide and give up a gob. If you find yourself among them, you need to get one of the effervescent tablet products that negate a saliva sample for at least two hours.
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