A secretive Cincinnati company says its finding a growing market for its products that are designed to beat drug tests. Spectrum Labs -- which provides only a post office box for its location -- claims to have helped thousands of people beat drug tests since it went into business 12 years ago.
The company's products have gotten the attention of the U.S. government. Spectrum's signature product called UrineLuck was cited by name when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed changing federal drug-testing rules because of widespread use of products designed to allow drug users to beat the tests. UrineLuck is an additive meant to be mixed with a urine sample to neutralize any trace of illicit drugs. The firm also sells shampoo designed to fix hair samples, and a urine substitute, among other products.
"They are clearly visible on the Internet and in drug-culture magazines and publications," said Dr. Donna Bush, drug-testing team leader for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of HHS.
The UrineLuck product is "one of the big reasons why we are moving ahead with alternatives to the urine tests," said Bush, a forensic toxicologist.
Although Spectrum's products were formulated to deceive tests designed to detect traces of marijuana in the system, the products also are effective when used by people who use other illegal -- or tightly regulated -- drugs, such as cocaine, opiates and amphetamines, said Tony Wilson, Spectrum's director of communications.
They are meant to counter the growing use of drug testing before hiring and during employment.
Sixty-two percent of all companies conduct drug testing, a figure that skyrockets to 100 percent for those in the transportation industry and some government agencies, said Rebecca Hastings of the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va.
Spectrum is owned and was founded by J. Matthew Stephens, who grew up in Mason. He defends his products as fighting privacy intrusion by the federal government and corporations.
Although he declines to provide specifics about Spectrum's financial results, Stephens said sales have grown explosively every year and revenue is now "in the millions."
Ninety-nine percent of his sales are to people who use "plain old pot," not users of more dangerous drugs, he said.
He said he began to develop his product line while he was studying chemistry at Ohio State University in the late '80s.
When a buddy who was facing a job interview and drug test asked him to come up with something to "help him out," Stephens obliged.
"It worked for him and he told two friends who told two friends and I had friends asking for friends and someone said you ought to go into business," he said. Stephens opened the doors for business in Cincinnati in September, 1992.
Stephens and Wilson contend that drug tests represent unwarranted invasions of privacy by the government or employers.
"Whatever happened to the right to privacy and the rights against unlawful search and seizure?" said Wilson.
The company also agues that some drug tests are inaccurate, providing false positives for the presence of illegal substances.
"You've got to have some regulations for public safety, but not when you're talking about invading the privacy of your home," Stephens said.
Spectrum's products include:
"Urine Luck," a chemical additive that comes in two small vials. When added to a urine sample, the product is supposed to destroy any "unwanted toxins" in the sample.
"Quick Fix" is a synthetic urine that can be clandestinely substituted for the actual sample. It comes with a temperature strip and microwave heating instructions so it can approximate body temperature.
"Absolute De-Tox Carbo Drink" was formulated to trap toxins in fat cells so that they're not released during a drug test.
The products are sold on the Internet (www.urineluck.com) and at retailers including Hemptations stores in Clifton and O'Bryonville and The Cupboard in Clifton.
Bush said that proposed new regulations will improve the accuracy of drug testing by allowing the government to use sweat, saliva and hair samples to conduct drug tests. A separate set of new regulations are designed to improve the accuracy of urine tests.
About 400,000 federal employees could be affected, including those with security clearances, those who carry firearms or deal with public safety or national security, and presidential appointees.
In many cases, private industry follows the government's lead on drug testing, meaning that the new regulations may usher in new rules in the private sector, Bush said.
Hastings compared users of Spectrum's products to those who cheat on tests.
"Anyone who would use such a product could be regarded as a person of questionable character, just as those who cheat on tests and term papers are labeled as cheaters," she said. "And they may place themselves and others in danger by engaging in such practices."
Stephens said the company's primary source of criticism is "the people who are doing the drug testing."
"What's the best way to pass a drug test?" Wilson said. "We recommend that you don't do drugs."
Some Spectrum Labs products:
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