Signs An Addiction Patient Is Cheating On A Drug Test

Many outpatient drug rehab programs use drug screening as a form of accountability, but some clients may try to cheat a drug test if they have relapsed.

Signs An Addiction Patient Is Cheating On A Drug Test

Clients in an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for drug addiction are often expected to maintain sobriety and take regular drug tests while in the program.

Sometimes clients may feel that they need to cheat on a drug test because they have relapsed and don’t want to get kicked out of the program.

What Are The Signs An Addiction Patient Is Cheating On A Urine Test For Drugs?

The most common form of drug testing is a urine test.

For a urine test, a client must urinate into a collection cup. That sample is then tested. It may be tested onsite using a quick test, or it may be sent off to a lab.

When a client is worried that they may not pass, they may try to trick the test. Here are some signs to watch for.


If a client has tried to tamper with urine to cheat the test, it may alter the color of the urine to one that is not normal. This could be because of dilution or adulteration.


The temperature of urine is another sign that it may have been tampered with. Urine is supposed to be warm.

For this reason, test collectors for an IOP may have strips that test temperature to ensure that the urine has not been replaced with a fake sample.


Urine also has a particular odor. Samples that have been tampered with may not smell like it should.

How Do Clients Try To Cheat A Drug Test?

There are several ways that clients try to cheat on a urine test with varying levels of efficacy.

Trying To Dilute The Urine

A client may try to dilute urine to artificially reduce the concentration of specific markers in their urine that would point to drug use.

For this reason, testing sites may alter the bathroom that the client uses to prevent access to water.

They may do this by taping down the toilet tank or removing handles to a sink if not removing the sink entirely.

Carrying A Container Of Fake Urine

Some clients may try to sneak a container of fake urine or someone else’s urine into the bathroom and pour that into the collection cup.

If a client is successful, this may actually provide clients with a clean test, but temperature testing can help to mitigate this risk.

As an extra precaution, some testing protocols check for containers by requiring clients to:

  • remove sweaters before entering the bathroom
  • empty out pockets
  • lift up their shirt enough to expose their midriff
  • lower their pants enough to expose their waistline

Adding Adulterants

Another way to attempt to cheat on a test is to add adulterants, or “spike” the urine. The idea is to add chemicals to the urine in an attempt to confuse the test and get a clean result.


Buprenorphine is a medication that is used to reduce opioid drug cravings that clients may experience when recovering from opioid use disorder.

When buprenorphine is added to a urine sample, it can sometimes garner a clean result from a rapid urine test.

If the sample is lab-tested, technicians can determine that the urine has been spiked by the lack of metabolites that would normally be produced by the liver as a result of buprenorphine use.

Eye drops

Adding eye drops is another method. Eye drop containers are easy to hide, and the chemical can dilute drug metabolites, creating a false negative.


Someone could also use other household chemicals to hide drug metabolites in urine.

Chemicals commonly used to contaminate urine include:

  • lemon juice
  • bleach
  • Drano
  • vinegar
  • salt

A client may be able to fool a rapid test, but dilution ultimately will change the color or temperature of a sample.

Urine Drug Testing

Urine drug testing is the most common method of testing for drug rehab centers and most workplaces such as transportation companies that need to ensure their drivers are clean.

How Urine Testing Works

Most drug and alcohol treatment centers use a form of urine testing called a rapid test. When conducting a rapid test, the sample collector puts some of the urine sample on a testing strip.

After a few moments, the test will indicate a positive or negative result for drugs.

Such tests can check for:

Detection Windows For Urine Drug Testing

Depending on the substance, drug detection windows for urine testing may vary. How much a client uses and for how long can affect the test as well.

In general, however, here are the detection windows for the following substances:

  • methamphetamine: two to four days
  • cocaine: one to three days
  • cannabinoids: from one to 30 days depending on the level of use
  • opioids: one to three days

Other Methods Of Drug Testing

Urine testing is not the only method of drug testing. There are others, though they are not likely to replace urine testing.

Rapid urine testing is the most convenient and cost-effective test solution, but here are other common options and their advantages as well as their limitations.

Blood Test

A blood test is entirely tamper-proof, but there are several drawbacks. A blood test is both  inconvenient and expensive because you need a phlebotomist to collect the sample and a lab to test it.

A blood test is impractical for another reason. The detection window for a blood test is only 12 to 24 hours and is only able to detect people who are intoxicated by a substance at that moment.

For this reason, blood tests are usually conducted after accidents or emergencies but not usually at other times.

Sweat Test

Sweat tests are relatively tamper-proof as well. This type of test requires the collection of a client’s sweat.

The detection window for this test starts a week after the last use and can last up to a month. However, sweat can encounter contaminants on the skin, which can produce false results.

Saliva Test

A saliva test has a short detection window, similar to blood testing, but a sample is much easier to obtain.

However, the risk of contamination is similar to that of a sweat test.

Hair Test

Hair tests are also possible, but it is usually expensive and impractical as clients can tamper with the test by simply cutting or shaving their hair.

Detection times for hair tests generally start around four months. Some drugs have windows that can last up to a year, assuming the hair that was grown following drug use is still present.

Getting A Clean Drug Test

The only sure way to receive a clean drug test is to abstain from using substances. This is the point of drug rehab services and drug screening.

Some rehab centers may view a positive test as a cause for dismissal from the program. Others see it as an opportunity to strengthen coping skills and relapse prevention strategies.

Some people cheat on drug tests to avoid negative consequences for using substances or for fear of shame and judgment after relapse.

Whatever the motivation for cheating on a drug test, it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to start fresh and try again.

There is an array of addiction therapists, drug treatment programs, and peer recovery groups focused on helping you to achieve a clean drug test honestly.

Find Addiction Treatment Today

If you are facing a substance use disorder that has caused you to fail drug tests, you can find addiction treatment today. Reach out to us to learn how to start your recovery journey.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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