Beating the System
Carol didn't smoke much, just an occasional bit of pot here and there, enough to take the edge off. She didn't consider it any big deal. Until the divorce."They just sprung it on me," Carol says. "They wanted me to take a drug test to get custody of my kids. I didn't expect it all."Carol had passed one before. The casino she works at required her to take a drug test -- hair, urine, blood -- before they'd even consider putting her on the payroll. Yet for that test she had some lag time, a month to flush her body out. She stopped smoking pot for awhile, drank over 10 glasses of water a day. The night before the test she took Golden Seal, one of the original drugs designed to fool test labs. It worked. She got the job.But the judge ordered Carol to take a drug test the next day, leaving no time to purge her system. The only choice she had was to try one of the detoxifying drinks sold in head shops. She bought some sort of herbal tea mix, chugged it down and prayed."I'd never used any other detox products before that. I was really nervous," Carol admits. "But I tested negative. My ex-husband came up positive. My attorney was in shock."It's a fact of life. Since their inception in the early '80s, drug tests have become standard practice in the business world. Would-be employees, in hopes of a paycheck, shuck their right-to-privacy, grab a cup and head for the bathroom. According to recent studies, 90 percent of all major U.S. corporations require prospective employees to be screened. Student athletes must pass a test to play sports. Insurance companies increasingly demand samples to receive coverage. Nevada casinos require tests for their employees.But that doesn't stop people from trying to beat the system. Whether because of time or lack of desire, multitudes are buying detoxifying and masking products -- with names like Test Pure, THC-Free and Clear Choice -- to help slip by drug tests. Costing from $20 to $40, a slew of detox merchandise, ranging from herbal teas and shakes to quick-fix pills, have hit the shelves, each claiming to purify the body in no time. Ads are plastered all over magazines. Even muscle shops like GNC sell products that contend they can flush anything out of the body.The demand has created a multi-million dollar market for companies such as Health Tech and Naturally Pure Enterprises, as well as outlets that hawk their stuff. Greg Davis, manager of Diversity, a Las Vegas tattoo and paraphernalia shop, says his store has been "selling quite a bit" of detox products. Most people, Davis says, are "looking for peace of mind" when it comes to being tested. They've taken precautions; they just want an extra safeguard."A lot of people who have refrained from activities choose to use them because they can't take the chance of having some passive contamination make them come up positive on some random test," Davis says.When taken in combination with herbal pre-cleansing pills, a detox tea or drink dilutes the level of toxins -- be it THC or harder substances like cocaine and meth -- to the point of being untraceable. The user then has a two to five-hour window where urine should pass any examination. It's the same for hair tests, with shampoos washing away the implanted traces of chemicals in follicles.But the real effectiveness of detoxifying products is still in question. Critics point out that there have been no lab experiments that prove detox wares work. Doctors contend that most drug screenings are hard to beat, and that the Federal Drug Administration hasn't approved any of the products. Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says NORML gets upwards of 150 calls a day from people who have not passed drug screenings, most of whom have used some form of detox product."A lot of these tests put people on the silver bullet plan," St. Pierre says. "They think that they can keep up their normal use right till the time of the test and pass. But it takes more prepping than drinking some solvent a few hours before you go in."Dr. Raymond Kelly, director of toxicology at Associate Pathologists Laboratories, where most drug tests in Las Vegas are analyzed, agrees. "The kind of claims that are made by these products very rarely happen in real life ... They depend on diluting the system, but no tea or drink is going to do that any better than water. You could have saved the $40 and just drank out of the tap."Sue Thompson has seen detox products work. An herbalist in Reno, she was making a brew for a friend with AIDS who intended to bring her T-cell count up. But when a guy rushed in her store saying he needed something to help him pass a drug test in a few hours -- he'd been drinking, taken a couple of hits off a joint and snorted a line of cocaine -- Thompson handed him the drink. A few days later his girlfriend, a regular at Thompson's store, came in and said he'd passed."I couldn't believe it worked," Thompson says. "That's the first time I realized that it's possible to detoxify the body completely."She's started her own company, A-Z Enterprises, to market her natural detoxifying concoctions. It's gone over well. Thompson says people from across the country -- prison guards, lawyers, pro football and baseball players trying to pass steroid tests -- have contacted her in an attempt to buy one of her elixirs. Thompson doesn't condone taking drugs, but she sees drug testing as an invasion of people's rights."The only moral hang-up I have with this is the fact that they're making people urinate in a cup," Thompson says. "When you're taking away someone's kids for being caught with a roach or throwing someone in jail because of a hair test, that's just wrong."For Carol, the quick mix she drank translated into a chance to raise her children. That alone makes her an avid spokesperson."It was the difference between having my kids or not," Carol says. "It worked for me. I'd use one again if I had to."