Synthetic urine use on the rise

With more companies and organizations implementing drug testing, the market for synthetic urine is undergoing a rapid growth. Synthetic urine can be created in a laboratory using a mixture of urea, water, creatinine and/or uric acid.

Urinalysis testing employs two methods called chromatography and mass spectrometry to test urine for drugs. These methods make it possible to identify each compound present in the mixture and evaluate its purity. Most companies evaluate samples for traces of opioids, THC, amphetamines and cocaine. Urinalysis clinics also analyze urine for colour, odour, and temperature upon collection of the specimen.

One of the synthetic urine kits currently available on the market is the Quick Fix Synthetic Delivery System, which comes with life-like prosthetic fake penises in different skin tones as well as heating pads and harnesses. In addition, several websites, sell genuine frozen and dehydrated urine specimens.

In his interview with Scientific American, Patrick Kyle, director of clinical chemistry and toxicology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said that use of synthetic urine lets patients pass urinalysis tests intended to ensure they are not currently taking opioid medications or illicit drugs. According to Dr. Kyle, “Packaging materials and containers for some of these products are being left in the restrooms” at his hospital.

In order to address the concerns over synthetic urine being used for drug tests, Dr. Kyle and his colleague Jaswinder Kaur have demonstrated that substances such as chocolate, coffee and cigarettes can help to differentiate real and synthetic urine. In the past, evaluating urine acidity and density, as well as concentration of creatinine, which is a metabolic waste, helped to distinguish real urine in urinalysis tests. However, synthetic urine can now also pass these parameters.

The new technique presented at the annual Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) meeting in October, 2018 in Minneapolis, examines four substances common in real urine: caffeine and theobromine (found in chocolate, tea and coffee), cotinine (a molecule produced as nicotine breaks down), and urobilin (degraded hemoglobin).

However, SOFT’s president, Michelle Peace, has noted that the new test will not detect when individuals pass off another human’s urine as their own. She also suggested that fake urine makers could easily add substances such as caffeine or theobromine to their synthetic urine products. According to Dr. Kyle, urinalysis testing must then examine compounds naturally produced in our bodies, such as urobilin.

In Canada, oil-patch employees have a track record for buying real and synthetic urine to pass workplace drug tests. At this time, there is no legislation regarding the sale of fake urine kits in Canada, and it remains legal. However, in the United States, 18 states have already passed laws banning the sale of synthetic urine due to its popularity, where synthetic urine kits can be easily purchased online, as well as at convenience stores and truck stops.

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