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Group Believes Checks Are Unconstitutional : Phone Tips on Foiling Drug Tests

October 24, 1986|LEONARD BERNSTEIN | Times Staff Writer

Seeking to make a political statement and a buck at the same time, a San Diego man has started a telephone service that offers up-to-the-minute advice about beating workplace drug tests.

The two-minute tape-recorded message, which a Los Angeles toxicologist said is largely accurate, provides callers with information on the lengths of time that commonly used street drugs stay in the body. It also suggests methods of doctoring urine samples to hide evidence of drug use.

The service is primarily the work of W. Evan Sloane, managing director of a small, loosely knit group calling itself Question Authority. The organization's members founded the nine day-old telephone service and may take other stands against the spread of drug testing by employers and the military, Sloane said.

"Question Authority is an attempt to focus some common sense on what's going on in our lives," Sloane said Thursday. "The little guy is getting beaten down by this and doesn't know how to defend himself because he assumes these tests are accurate."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 28, 1986 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
A photo caption in Monday's editions of The Times incorrectly identified Gordon Hisayasu of Pacific Toxicology Laboratories as a physician. He is a toxicologist.

"We believe forcing people to take a urine test to get or keep a job is unwarranted search and is unconstitutional," Sloane added.

Others involved include Jack Soule, a San Diego State University political science professor, and Ginny Burnight, whose voice is on the tape, Sloane said.

Soule brainstormed with Sloane about setting up the service and loaned him money to establish it, Sloane said. But Sloane gathered the information himself by consulting with chemists and reading journals.

For $2 (plus toll charges outside San Diego), callers to (619) 976-TEST can receive advice that includes drinking large quantities of fluid to dilute evidence of drugs in the urine sample; adding bleach or rubbing alcohol to urine samples to confound chemical tests, and never donating the first urination of the day because it is concentrated. The recording also offers tips on beating "observed" urinalysis. The service is believed to be the first of its kind.

"We at Question Authority do not condone drug abuse," a woman's voice says on the tape. "But we do believe that no government and no corporation should be able to intrude into our personal lives so long as we live up to our responsibilities."

Sloane, refusing to say how much money he is making on each call, said he hopes to plow some of the profits into his business as a financial planner for educational employees.

While there are some errors in the information, the advice is largely accurate, said Gordon Hisayasu, director of toxicology for Pacific Toxicology Laboratories in Los Angeles.

"If I was to write a 2 1/2-minute speech . . . I could probably do a better job," Hisayasu said. "They came up with some good ones. I could come up with better ones, but I'm not going to tell you what they are.

"But that was pretty comprehensive. I was hoping it would be a bunch of malarkey, but it's not," he said.

Hisayasu said that drug tests commonly used by employers are advertised as 97% to 99% accurate, and tests conducted by laboratories such as his are more sensitive. Lab tests might be able to detect some of the adulterations suggested by Question Authority, he said.

Sloane, citing a Congressional study, claimed that the tests may be as much as 66% inaccurate. For example, he said, eating poppy seeds on a bun may cause a false positive reading on an opiate test. Hisayasu agreed.

The tape also suggests that passive inhalation of marijuana smoke from other smokers could cause positive reading on a test. Hisayasu disagreed, saying that someone "would have to be in a Volkswagen for five hours with 10 smokers" to inhale enough smoke to register a positive test.

About 25% of the Fortune 500 companies are using urinalysis for drug detection, mostly in pre-employment screenings. President Reagan has ordered screening for federal employees in sensitive jobs.

Individuals, sometimes aided by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, have sued public and private employers across the country in response.

Others have turned to finding out how to beat the test. In response to constant requests fro advice, High Times magazine, which focuses on drug issues, has run a column every month for the past 18 months offering advice about cheating on the tests. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has also handled an increased number of such requests, said Kevin Zeese, national director.

A book on beating the tests is being written by a group of people who wrote a book on how to beat the draft, Zeese said. And in some parts of the country, people are offering to sell "guaranteed clean" urine samples and developing a powder that can be made into urine by adding water, he said.

Dean Latimer, executive editor at High Times who has been tracking the drug-testing issue for the past six years, said that Question Authority's service is apparently the first of its kind in the nation.

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