Walk Down Misery Street

Each drug remains in the urine for a specified period of time. For example: alcohol—less than a day; cocaine—three or four days; marijuana—about a month. Users know this already. There’s nothing overly scientific about it.

But there is a science—or an art rather—to the user’s ability to give the counselor someone else’s clean urine if his is dirty. Here we are entering the realm of the magical. However, all in due course.

So, I went with William to the restroom. I gave him the usual plastic cup to pee into, and I stood behind him. He walked up to the urinal and unzipped his jeans. “Oh, the pin! I bet there was a con artist in here, right before me,” he joked. William wasn’t a newbie to substance abuse clinics, so the ordinary metal pin lying in the urinal told him a lot.

At first, I was bewildered by the presence of used condoms in the men’s room at the clinics. Yes, condoms are often found on the floor, in the urinals, and in the trashcans. No matter how much I tried to use my imagination, I could not understand where the used condoms had come from and why they were there. It would be absurd to assume that a booming sex life was flourishing in the bathrooms of substance abuse clinics.

It was all very simple: “dirty” patients bring someone else’s “clean” urine in a condom. So, this is a reliable, proven method. They attach the condom to the belt of their jeans and let it hang in their underwear. Then, cup in hand, with their back to the counselor, they quietly remove the pin from their pocket, unbutton their pants, and pierce a hole in the condom. Psss. Then they dispose of all this unneeded “equipment.” That is why pins and condoms abound in the bathrooms of drug clinics. There is nothing romantic or sexual about it.

Rarely will a patient admit that he is “dirty.” More often he will say that he is “clean” when he is not. Yet, such emotions blaze in the restroom. Such drama occurs when it turns out that their “clean” is not clean, but dirty. The loud speech that ensues! The lies flow like a river. The patient alleges that the stick is bad and states that the counselor doesn’t trust anybody and stands like an dragon behind his back looking over his shoulder. How many times have I had to listen to accusations made by angry patients who have tried to submit fake urine to me, tell me that I am a racist, a sex pervert, and worse than a police officer (as well as many other identities I never knew about myself.)