More than once while clinging to a cell phone tower hundreds of feet in the air while under the influence of heroin, cocaine or marijuana, it occurred to Chris how easy it would be to make a mistake and bring down the whole tower. Somebody could get killed.
“It crossed my mind many times,” he said.
But that didn’t stop him, just as the mandatory drug test he took to get a job working on the cell tower didn’t stop him. For that, he simply went to the city of Union, northwest of Dayton, and bought a bottle of artificial urine.
The stuff isn’t illegal, a Dayton Daily News investigation found, though some think it should be, including the Union city administrator who owns the building where it is sold. It can be used to pass drug tests for dangerous jobs such as driving heavy trucks or — with more difficulty — passing a court-ordered drug test.
“It’s common knowledge. They sell it everywhere,” Chris told the Daily News and WHIO-TV.
A Cincinnati-based company is one of the nation’s leading makers of fake urine. Spectrum Labs says on its website that it has “helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world protect their privacy by enabling them to pass a test.”
The Daily News submitted samples of artificial urine and real urine to the Dayton Municipal Court, which couldn’t tell the difference. Court officials say they’re on the lookout, though, and will throw the book at anyone caught cheating.
‘It’ll pass any of the tests’
The fake urine goes by names such as Quick Fix Plus and runs $25 a bottle. Chris — whose last name the newspaper agreed not to use because he has assisted law enforcement in the past — said he also used it to pass a drug test for the Kentucky Department of Transportation so he could drive heavy trucks.
Chris bought the artificial urine from a store called the 70s Rock Shop in Union. Reporters visited the store without identifying themselves and asked what was available for someone who needs to pass a drug test.
A man behind the counter first suggested a drink that promised to flush out the system, warning “you got to be clean two days before these work.”
“You drink it. You pee five times or so. The instructions are on it,” he said.
The reporter then asked about something “that works more immediately.”
“I’ve got synthetic urine,” he responded.
The reporter was directed to a $25 bottle of the artificial urine, complete with a hand warmer to bring the liquid to body temperature.
“It’ll pass any of the tests,” he said.
“Have you had people use it and say it works?” the reporter asked.
“Every day,” the man responded.
The Daily News found that artificial urine is sold at other area businesses as well.
Quick Fix is manufactured by Spectrum Labs. In addition to synthetic urine, the company’s website boasts detoxifying capsules, drinks, shampoos and urine sample additives.
“Each product is public and private lab-tested to ensure high-quality capabilities against state-of-the-art testing, to help you pass any pre-employment nicotine test,” the website says, claiming the company has “been the leader in Detox Products since 1992.”
The Quick Fix page includes directions on how to use and says, “This product is not intended for use on lawfully administered drug tests and is to be used in accordance with all federal and state laws.”
Calls to Spectrum Labs were referred to the company’s marketing director, who did not return calls for comment.
Building owner: ‘That’s allowed?”
Union City Manager John Applegate, who owns the building where the 70s Rock Shop is located, said he’s shocked to learn fake urine is being sold there.
“You are kidding me. And that’s allowed? That’s amazing,” he said.
“It think it’s wrong, to be honest with you,” he said, saying that all of his city employees are drug-tested annually so they can drive salt trucks. “If somebody used that they’d be fired in a heartbeat.”
But Applegate said since it’s not illegal, he can’t tell a renter what they can or can’t sell.
“If it’s illegal I’d say I got a problem and I’d walk down there right now and say you can’t do this,” he said. “Why hasn’t somebody done something about it?”
Some states, such as Kentucky, outlaw the sale of any product designed to defraud of falsify a drug screening test. Spectrum Labs notes that Quick Fix cannot be shipped to residents of Illinois, Kentucky or New Jersey.
Product fools test
Daily News reporters bought two products for this story. One was a Quick Fix bottle with a hand warmer. The other was a “Gotcha Belt,” which included 3.5 ounces of “novelty urine,” a heating pad – with a color strip to let you know when it’s the right temperature — and an elastic waste band and plastic tube to be worn under clothing.
The packaging for the belt calls it a “gag gift.”
“There is only one true reason for this product and that is to circumvent drug tests either for employment purposes or probation purposes,” said Joel Zeugner, chief probation officer for the Dayton Municipal Court.
The Daily News provided a sample of the artificial urine and real urine to see if the city’s process could tell the difference. Both samples came back clean of opiates, cocaine, marijuana, oxytocin, benzoates and methamphetamine.
“This test is completely clean as far as our test results.” Zeugner said “This is exactly why this product was created and it is exactly why states in this country are outlawing this specific product and products like it, because it circumvents our testing process.”
To guard against this, probation officers watch people being drug-tested fill the cup and listen to make sure the flow sounds natural. To guard against extra scrutiny, some companies sell devices that look anatomically correct.
“It makes my job and the job of all of my officers that much harder,” Zeugner said. “I wish it didn’t exist, and I wish it was illegal and I hope one day this stuff you won’t be able to get as easily as you did.”
‘Money well spent’
The first time Chris tried the fake urine was five years ago. It had been mere days since he had used cocaine, heroin and marijuana. He walked away with a Kentucky ODOT form saying he was good to drive big trucks for two years.
The second time was last fall, when he applied for a job working on cell phone towers for a Cincinnati company. He had used heroin that morning, but again he passed. He says he worked with many people on the dangerous job who did the same thing.
He said it was money well spent for a drug addict bent on breaking the rules regardless of the ultimate cost.
“If it means your job, yes it’s money well spent, (even though it) could mean lives, could mean hurting, killing making an accident,” he said.