How to Pass a Drug Test

How to pass a drug test
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

In 2001, I was on probation for felony drug possession, which meant I spent a lot of time urinating on command for a man named Norman Coldiron -- for real. He was born to be a probation officer.  

I'd laid off the hard drugs and was toking the occasional reefer when Norman popped me with a drug test. An hour before peeing in the cup, I sucked down a bag of pectin. I eavesdropped as Norman went over the test results with another officer: "Cocaine is negative; PCP is negative; marijuana is [incomprehensible]."

Norman appeared, arms folded across his grandfatherly plaid button-up shirt. "Young lady, have you been smoking marijuana?"

My heart made a hard thunk in my chest. I did not want to go back to jail. "No," I lied.

"Your results for marijuana came back inconclusive." For whatever reason, Norman was satisfied with that result, but said he'd drug-test me again, and soon.

The main thing I took away from that harrowing event is this: pectin works, provided you aren't a heavy pot smoker. But because mine is just one of many marijuana metabolite-filled bladders, I asked Christopher Gerhart, a substance abuse counselor who's been drug-testing patients for more than 20 years, to weigh in on how to pass a drug test.

It's gonna take time. A whole lot of precious time.

Gerhart is a responsible professional whose job is to not enable drug addicts. He emphasized the techniques that don't work and peppered his cautionary tales with annoyingly wise rhetorical questions (e.g., "Why is it so important for you to be high?"). He says the only surefire way to pass a drug test is to actually lay off drugs for a while.

"The thing that gets someone clean enough to pass the test is time," he says. "Typically, stimulant-type drugs have a shorter half-life -- they're out of your system in days. Cannabis can take weeks or months depending on the quantity, quality, and that person's condition."

Someone who's heavyset, not physically active, and who's regularly smoking the finest medical-grade sativa is going to have marijuana metabolites in their system for up to 90 days after quitting, Gerhart says. So logically, if you're a skinny marathon runner who only tokes up every few weeks or so, your time to pass a drug test will veer toward the lower end of that spectrum.

California NORML breaks down the average time it takes to clear popular drugs, though it's worth reiterating that everyone processes substances differently. For a single use of marijuana, you can bet on anywhere from a day to a week or more before your urine's clean. Heavy users might need up to three or more months. For speed, coke, heroin, and other opiates, you're looking at one to four days. PCP is going to stay in your system for three to seven days, and for all of the above, a hair test might return a positive result for months after the last time you used.

I was a moderately active 21-year-old with a normal BMI when I narrowly passed my drug test, and I had smoked "kind bud" (why did we call it that?) three days prior, though I wasn't a heavy smoker at the time. Which brings us to the next technique: pectin!

Eating pectin and bentonite clay

Shane Ellison, who has a masters degree in organic chemistry and authored the book Over-The-Counter Natural Cures, Expanded Edition, says bentonite clay prevents tests from detecting any drug. "Take two tablespoons of bentonite clay twice daily, two to five days out, with plenty of water," he says. "The clay will bind to the drugs and escort them out of the body."

I'm no organic chemist, but I'm pretty sure the soluble fiber in fruit pectin works much the same way. Unfortunately, very few research dollars go toward studies called "What Works Best for Passing a Drug Test?" and the pectin tip came from one of my pothead raver friends back in 2001. Message-board forums claim it really works, but take that with a huge grain of salt since there's no scientific or medical backing for it. Also, it tastes pretty vile.

Watering down your pee

Diluting your pee by drinking mass quantities of water is one of the OG ways to defeat a drug test. Most detox kits you'll find in head shops operate on this principle. Unfortunately, it's one drug testers are hip to.

"If someone overhydrates by drinking, like, 9 gallons of water, they'll push something out that's a sample, but there's not enough metabolites of anything in there, because the body's just dumping water," Gerhart says. "The specific gravity, creatinine, and temperature could be off."

Gerhart adds that a suspicious urine sample might provoke further testing. So playing the urine game may only delay the inevitable

Using fake pee or pee from a clean friend

This can work. Some fake pees come with heating elements to get them to the appropriate temperature, and hand warmers also can do the trick. The key to this technique is scoping out the space where you'll urinate.

When I was on probation, for example, I peed in front of a female employee who looked in at me from a little window behind the toilet. For a job interview, you may have access to a private bathroom, and if you don't, think very, very hard about how badly you need that job.

Gerhart says using fake urine is a dangerous game. "For as many stories as there are of people who beat a test by doing that, plenty have gotten caught doing the same thing," he says. "I heard about one fellow who tried to back-fill his bladder with dog urine and a turkey baster. Creative, but not a good idea. He wound up in prison with a horrible urinary tract infection."

If there's only one lesson you learn from this article, let it be this: Do NOT put dog urine into your bladder using a turkey baster.

Adulterants and hair tests = you're screwed

Adding bleach, vinegar, ammonia, or cleaning products to urine samples flat-out doesn't work. "We can run an adulteration panel to check for the presence of different adulterants," Gerhart says. There are plenty of hair-detox shampoos on the market, but none can actually penetrate into the follicle where the metabolites are located. Gerhart says hair tests are often the next step after a urine test. "If a company really wants to know what's going on with someone, they give them a hair test rather than just the urine drug test."

So how do you pass the damn test?

If I had to pass a urine drug test tomorrow, and I took drugs today, this is what I'd do. I'd lay off drugs completely (duh). I'd drink a large but not excessive amount of water. I'd eat a bag of pectin and I'd try bentonite, because why not. I'd do all those things before the actual test. Then I'd go to a pharmacy, buy a $20 drug test, and give my pee a dress rehearsal. If everything was in the clear, I'd repeat the winning combination prior to the actual test.

"A simple over-the-counter drug test answers the question 'Can I pass or not?'" Gerhart says. "I'm married to a lawyer. She knows you never ask a question you don't know the answer to."

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Missy Wilkinson wishes the best to all the poor sons of bitches trying not to fail their drug tests. Follow her on Instagram @nowlistenmissy.