As part of a routine drug test, Adam Randall handed a vial of yellow liquid to a probation officer.
Although it looked like a urine sample from the 31-year-old – who was required to submit to testing after a previous conviction – authorities in Queensbury, New York, say it was not. They allege that Randall turned over a synthetic liquid he had sneaked into the probation office via a bottle stuffed into his pants, a substance so in demand that states are now taking steps to ban it: fake pee.
With the nation's opioid crisis raging, rates of cocaine and methamphetamine abuse soaring and recreational marijuana use becoming legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, the concern about clean drug tests, too, has increased.
While people have long tried to cheat drug exams with an array of creative methods – such as providing other people's urine, attempting to flush their systems with gallons of water or using herbal remedies – authorities say synthetic urine has become the new go-to trick.
So much so that states are enacting laws to ban the sale of fake urine, which retails for about $17 to $40 in head shops, truck stops and on the Internet, and is easy to purchase.
The substance – made from chemicals and, some claim, uric acid – goes by names including “Monkey Whizz” and “UPass.” Authorities say the products give drug users a way to sidestep screening exams administered by police, courts and employers for safety and security.
Laws making it illegal to sell or use synthetic urine or cheat on a drug test are on the books in at least 18 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Indiana and New Hampshire banned synthetic urine last year. Bills to do so were introduced this year in Missouri and Mississippi.
Mississippi's bill was dubbed the “Urine Trouble Act,” drawing snickers and groans in the State House. But its sponsors and others said that the jokey name belies a real problem: Truck drivers, people who operate heavy machinery and others can use the synthetic liquid to easily thwart a drug test, potentially creating public risks.
“Our employers are reporting to us a concern that more and more of their employees are using synthetic human urine to cheat on a drug test,” said Dan Gibson, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Self-Insurers, which has lobbied for the bill.
Mississippi state Rep. Willie Bailey, speaking at a hearing in Jackson, held a bottle of fake urine that came with instructions suggesting that users could microwave it to achieve body temperature. He said the substance has been a “hot seller” in truck stops statewide.
“They can't keep it in stock,” he said.
The bill passed the Mississippi House but died in the Senate. Gibson said his members were troubled that the legislation failed; the association plans to lobby for another effort next year.
“Maybe we'll call it 'urine trouble again,'” Gibson said.
David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, has heard numerous accounts of people on probation getting caught with fake urine.
They often try to slip it into cups while in the bathroom, where they are supposed to be providing urine samples.
“People can basically use it to avoid consequence with their employers and probation officers,” Powell said. “There's just no other legitimate purpose for it.”