DOD labs test 60,000 urine samples each month. All active duty members must undergo a urinalysis at least once per year. Members of the Guard and Reserves must be tested at least once every two years. There are several protections built-in to the system to ensure accurate results.
First, individuals initial the label on their own bottles. The bottles are boxed into batches, and the test administrator begins a chain-of-custody document for each batch.
This is a legal document Everybody who has had something to do with that sample signs it – whether it be the observer who watched the person collect the sample, the person who puts it into the box or the person who takes it out of the box. There is always a written record of who those individuals are.
The chain-of-custody requirement continues in the lab as well. People who come in contact with each sample and what exactly they do to the sample are written on the document.
After arrival at the lab, samples then undergo an initial immunoassay screening (using the Olympus AU-800 Automated Chemistry Analyzer). Those that test positive for the presence of drugs at this point undergo the same screen once again. Finally, those that come up positive during two screening tests are put through a much more specific gas chromatography/mass spectrometry test. This test can identify specific substances within the urine samples.
Even if a particular drug is detected, if the level is below a certain threshold, the test result is reported back to the commander as negative.
DoD labs are equipped to test for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, opiates (including morphine and heroin), barbiturates and PCP. But not all samples are tested for all of these drugs.
Every sample gets tested for marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines, including ecstasy. Tests for other drugs are done at random on different schedules for each lab. Some laboratories do test every sample for every drug.
Commanders can request samples be tested for steroids. In this case, the samples are sent to the Olympic testing laboratory at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Commonly available substances such as golden seal and lasix are often touted as magical substances that can mask drugs in urine. In fact, they can make it easier to get caught. These substances are diuretics, so if they’re taken before giving a urine sample they flush chemicals out of the body – right into the collection cup. Drugs are often more concentrated in the urine after a service member takes one of these substances.
And other “sure-fire” solutions are even worse for you. Some people drink vinegar. There are stories of some people drinking bleach. None of these will defeat the urinalysis test.
Over- the-counter cold medications and dietary supplements might cause a screening test to come up positive, but that the more specific secondary testing would positively identify the medication. In this case, the report that goes back to the commander says negative.