How NOT to pass your pre-employment drug screening

tie-straighten urine-sample smoking-joint I consider pre-employment drug-testing to not only be a violation of one’s right to privacy, but an extremely misguided way to judge a candidate’s fitness to do the job. Back in 2002 when I was in my twenties and the economy was in the toilet, I needed a gig badly enough that I was willing to put up with it. These days I would never consider working for an employer moronic enough to insist such a thing, but of course that’s a moral standard afforded with dumb luck and a bit more seniority in job-market. This post is specifically about Marijuana, no other substances.

1. Book it.
Find out as early as you can, and make the appointment as far out as you possibly can. You will need this time to get the THC out of your system, which lingers for 30-45 days.

I was a temp, it was the post-9/11 recession, and one of my staffing agencies finally had something for me at an Investment Bank downtown. A weekend graveyard shift, salaried, across the street from the wreckage that remained of the Twin Towers. Fucking miserable. But work is work, and it’s better than none. I learned about the piss-test at the end of my interview with the Presentation Center manager, who took herself, and all of it, very, very seriously. It was to happen after the paid two-week training I was about to start. In retrospect, I think this must be a deliberate attempt to let people cleanup and get the narcotics out of their system. If they were really trying to catch anyone, they would spring it on you, right? They outsourced the testing to a dingy little Diagnostics Clinic up on 34th street, and it was up to me to call and make the appointment.

2. Stop smoking, start exercising.
THC bonds to lipids (a.k.a., fat). When that fat is metabolized, the THC comes out in your urine. This tends to occur at a relatively steady rate, regardless of cleansing. Given that the half-life of THC metabolites is 7 days, most people will be below the testing threshholds in 3-4 weeks. So if it’s too late to have a smoke-free month before test time, you need to try to get rid of as much of the fat in your body as possible. Exercise like a mutherfucker, and:

3. Diet, and then STOP.
Because you want your body to convert your fat reserves to energy, instead of the new fat you are consuming, you need to reduce your fat intake in the weeks leading up to the test. A couple of days before the test, you want to keep whatever THC is still in your body IN, by slowing your metabolism down to prevent any more THC from getting into your urine, and providing new, un-thc-tainted sources of fat to metabolize. That’s when you STOP exercising, and start piling on the bacon. In a nutshell: get as much THC out of your system as you can in the weeks before testing, then a couple days before test time, keep whatever remains in.

What I did instead, is get one of the “cleansing” drinks from a smoke shop, which I drank the day before. I would not recommend this.

4. Piss in that cup.
Some people try messing with the test-taking process, but I’ve heard too many amusing anecdotes about this backfiring. Anyway, they test the temperature to make sure it’s fresh, so good luck figuring that out without it coming out of your 98.6 degree nether-regions.

I was given the privacy of a bathroom with a closed door, but I’ve heard of other clinics where you have to go with a clinician standing right next to you.

5. Screen calls.
Because if you fail it, you’d better have time to come up with a fancy excuse and hope they either don’t give a shit or will give you another shot. You need this crappy gig.

It was a week after actually working at the Bank, that they left a message on my answering machine (remember those?) saying I needed to retake the drug test. I didn’t pass — but I didn’t exactly fail either (there was no indication of THC reported). Instead what was flagged on my report was “Low Creatinine levels.” What is Creatinine? Creatinine is a waste product of protein metabolism. As an indicator of drug-use, it’s dubious. Women have lower creatinine levels than men, vegetarians have lower creatinine levels than meat-eaters, and people with low body-mass have lower levels than people of high body-mass. The point is, they are testing levels of all sorts of other stuff in your pee to make sure you aren’t trying to hide something. Color, pH, and creatinine, among other things.

SO my creatinine levels were low. Why? It could have been the headshop drink I ingested. But how would that lower levels of protein metabolism? My hypothesis is that I would have received the same results had I NOT ingested the headshop drink. Because I’m female, slender, and was vegetarian at the time. Had I known about Step #3, I might have escaped this fated curveball. I felt vaguely vindicated when bit of web-searching revealed that Delta was facing a lawsuit from one of it’s pilots who was fired over test results indicating low creatinine levels. However this did not help my situation. They expected me to re-take the test. Obviously, having presumed that no news is good news, I had reverted to my sinful ways.

5. WAIT before reverting to your sinful ways.
Everything takes time, including clinicians analyzing your precious piss, writing up a report, sending it to your manager, and her opening the email or snail-mail and deciding what it all means in the scheme of her painfully narrow world-view. Give it a couple weeks to filter up through the powers-that-be before you go packing your bong. Oh fuck it, you’re not going to listen to me, you’ve been thinking about that huge joint you’re going to roll for weeks as soon as you bust out of that clinic. Which is why you will need to:

6. Come up with an excuse to buy some time.
You will have to repeat steps 1-5.

When I called back to innocently ask what the drug test result could possibly mean, I had recruited my friend D to lend me his phone, which had caller-ID block. I knew from previous temping gigs that all the banks had caller-ID on all the phones. If I was going to claim I was out of town visiting family for the week (which was perfectly appropriate, given that my shift was the weekend shift and I was off on the weekdays in between), I’d better not call from a local number.

Much to my surprise, the unimportant and unimaginative HR person that had been tasked with managing me and my drug test snafu was NOT at all pleased when I cheerfully informed her that I would not be able to book another appointment at the clinic immediately, but would be happy to do so upon my return at the end of the week. So up the chain of command it went to the manager that had interviewed me, and my staffing agency rep got involved to smooth feathers and mediate.

6. Keep your cool.
The type of people that want to drug-test you are generally inflexible, unintelligent twats, and may want you to jump through a few more fiery hoops in order to justify their existence.

“BUS TICKETS??” I exclaimed. The bitch manager wanted to see bus ticket receipts from my fictional trip. My agency rep calmly explained that there was some suspicion on the other side. I complained that this was ridiculous and invasive and that I had thrown out the ticket stub. She asked if I could save the return ticket receipt. I said I could. This satisfied her and she said she would let them know.

7. Get by with a little help from your friends.
When I hung up the phone (D’s phone) after this last exchange I turned to him, flabbergasted. I think I started to cry. The tears dried quickly as despair was consumed by determination to weasel my way out of this. D remembered that some friends of his HAPPENED to be doing a gig in the same city that my fictional trip to visit family was, and he called them. They were coming back Friday night. They said they would save their stamped bus ticket stubs and get them to me.

8. Pat yourself on the back for a job well-done.
All I had to do was wait out the rest of the week. I had played their game.

The next day I got a call from my staffing agency rep. What a job that must be. Have you ever heard a little kid say they wanted to be a staffing agency representative for investment banking temps when they grow up? And you never will. She informed me that they rescinded the offer of permanent employment, and they would like to bring me on as a temp. Of COURSE — they had just spent all that money training me, and I was already well-liked both personally professionally amongst the raucous and easy-going weekend staff, who either didn’t know or didn’t are about the drug test. To let me go would present a loss of time and profitability. Or maybe they didn’t want to pay for another drug test. Maybe they needed to have the last jab, who knows. I happily accepted, for I had wanted to remain a temp anyway. It was a shitty job at a shitty time, and the following year during a slump when they laid off all the temps, off I went, never to be drug-tested ever again.

Where the fuck are all those people now I wonder.

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