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ATAGO Urine Specific Gravity Refractometers Continue to Catch Drug Test Cheaters

Bellevue, WA (PRWEB) June 18, 2013

For as long as employers, sporting officials, and probation officers have administered drug tests, drug testees have found ways to cheat them. It’s an incessant, drug testing arms race: drug testers will find a seemingly fool-proof method for detecting a certain drug, only for testees to find a clever way to get around it. One need only consider high profile athletes like Lance Armstrong – whose sophisticated doping program involved a world-wide network of physicians and chemists at a cost of millions of dollars – to understand the lengths some will go to cheat a drug test.

For employees undergoing workplace drug tests, the cheating methods are less expensive, though often no less ingenious. Some drug user will add over-the-counter eye drops to their urine to mask the presence of THC (marijuana’s active ingredient), as the eye drop molecules will envelop those of the THC, hiding them from chemical detection. Drug test cheaters can also buy artificial urine in surreptitious containers designed to control the liquid’s temperature. (Urine testing processes will often measure the temperature of urine to see if it’s warm enough to have come from a human body.)

Drug users who are desperate enough might even resort to one of the simplest methods for cheating a urine test: drinking lots of water.

Unfortunately for these people, drug testing technicians have a bomb-proof method for detecting this type of subterfuge: urine specific gravity refractometers, such as those made by ATAGO.

Dilution is one of the most common methods for cheating a urine test. There are a few ways to do it: 1) Drinking lots of water before the test, 2) consuming diuretics to induce urination, 3) or adding water or another liquid to the urine sample. Diluting urine decreases its amount of drug particles, concealing their presence from drug testing kits – or so the thinking goes. These methods might very well fool an instant drug test kit, but most drug screening processes also test a sample’s urine specific gravity (USG), a parameter used to measure the concentration of urine.

Human urine will normally measure between 1.010 and 1.025 USG. When drug screening technicians find a urine sample with an unnaturally low USG, they have reason to believe the sample has been artificially diluted. The technician can then order for a new test or send the compromised sample off to a lab for a more rigorous drug analysis. By the same token, if a technician finds a sample with too high of a USG, then they have reason to believe the testee added something to their urine, such as a drug masking chemical.

USG is most commonly measured by refractometers, such as ATAGO’s PAL-10 S or PEN-Urine S.G. digital hand held units. Unlike other urine testing apparatus, refractometers are easy to use – ATAGO’s PEN-Urine S.G. can be simply dipped into a urine sample, obviating the need for pipettes – and can provide an accurate USG reading in seconds. In addition, they have no running costs or consumable parts, unlike reagent test strips.

Most importantly, refractometers are the most accurate method of measuring USG. Reagent test strips, including those attached to popular instant drug test kits, are especially prone to user error. Users of reagent test strips must watch while the urine reacts with the strip, discerning minute color changes and then comparing that color to a reference chart – a process open to some amount of user interpretation. Digital refractometers, on the other hand, deliver unambiguous readings.

Studies have shown refractometers to be the most accurate method for testing USG. In fact, refractometers are considered the “criterion measure for urine specific gravity,” superior to hydrometers and reagent strips, according to one study that compared the validity of the 3 methods.

Refractometers may be one of the older tools in the drug testing arsenal, but they are still regularly used by probation offices and drug screening contractors across the country. As sophisticated as some drug test cheating methods become, drug users continue to try – most often in vain – to fool drug tests by tampering with their urine. Refractometers make sure they do not get away with it.


Since 1940, ATAGO has been the worldwide trusted brand for refractometers of all shapes, sizes, and applications. Its vast product line includes the “RX” laboratory models, pocket-size digital “PAL” units, and “CM” series of compact in-line devices. ATAGO instruments are currently maintaining quality across myriad industries in over 150 countries.

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