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Hair Drug Testing Facts

Ishani Chatterjee Shukla Nov 20, 2018
Is it possible to detect the use of drugs by testing hair follicles? Read various interesting facts about hair drug testing to get enlightened.
Hair drug test is a technical analysis of hair, to determine the presence or absence of specific parent drugs or metabolites thereof. This kind of drug test is performed to detect the use of performance-enhancing drugs and steroids by athletes and sports-persons and to detect the consumption of illegal drugs such as Cocaine, Cannabis, Heroin, Opium, etc.
Nowadays, random drug testing in the workplace is conducted quite often to expose employees who are inconspicuous drug abusers and enroll them in drug rehab programs. The given discussion is sure to open up a world of astounding information relating to drug abuse and how a hair sample can betray the same!
Before jumping directly to the said facts, let us, first, take a brief glance at what exactly hair follicle drug test is. In a hair follicle drug test, a small sample of hair, either from the head or any other part of the body (excluding pubic regions), are examined to identify specific drugs used by the subject over a period of time.
The test measures the drug molecules and their specific metabolites, trace amounts of which are found in the hair follicles. Let us see how the drug metabolites get deposited in the hair follicles.
After a substance reaches the human digestive system, it undergoes all the metabolic processes and releases nutrients and/or by-products (metabolites in case of drugs) that are carried by the blood to different parts of the body.
As the blood circulates to all body parts, including hair, it deposits these metabolites in hair follicles which find their way to individual hair strands, thereby, making their presence conspicuous. Now, let us get to the facts about hair follicle drug testing.

Some Hair Drug Testing Facts

Hair Drug Test Accuracy

Hair follicle drug test information is found to be far more accurate than urine sample analysis when testing for presence of drugs such as cocaine, PCP, opiates and methamphetamine and is considered more effective for detecting low level drug use over a long period of time as compared to urine and saliva tests.
This is because, the drug metabolites are flushed out of the blood stream every three to seven days whereas they can remain trapped in hair follicles for years! Detecting low level use of marijuana through hair follicle test is comparatively less sensitive than detecting cocaine and opiates but is considered equally, if not more, effective as urine test.

Hair Drug Test Cost

One of the most encouraging facts is that it costs lesser than most other conventional drug test methods. Besides, it is also the least invasive method and allows for testing of a large number of potentially interacting toxic or narcotic elements at one time.

Drugs Detected

The drugs that are detected by this test include Cocaine, Benzoylecgonine, Marijuana, Opiates (such as Codeine, Morphine and Heroin), Methamphetamine, Amphetamine, Ecstasy, Phencyclidine, etc.

Measurable Amount

Another among interesting facts is the minimum level of metabolites that need to be present in hair follicles to be detected for screening and confirmation. Here is an information about the same:

Cocaine: 100 pg/mg
Opiates: 100 pg/mg
Phencyclidine: 100 pg/mg
Ecstasy: 100 pg/mg
Amphetamines: 100 pg/mg
Marijuana: 0.10 pg/mg
Methamphetamines: 100 pg/mg

Quantity of Hair Sample

Approximately 50-80 hair strands at least 2 inches long, i.e. around 45 mg of sample is required for this. The quantity required may vary slightly depending upon the thickness, color and texture of hair. Hair collected from comb cannot be used, and sample is always taken live from the subject by cutting hair strands from as close to the scalp as possible.

Time Period of Test

The time period covered by these tests is approximately 90 days but may vary, depending upon individual hair growth rate. The sample hair is cut very close to the scalp and the latest 2 inches of growth are examined.

Hair Treatment, Color and Test Results

If you think you can get away and pass the drug test by use of hair coloring products to mask the presence of narcotic metabolites, you couldn't be further from the truth! Chemical treatment and hair color, whether natural or artificial, has no role in testing for drugs using hair samples.
In fact, chemical treatments such as washing of hair is helpful in removing external contaminants and gives clarity to test results! Bleaching and coloring can only affect test results significantly, if the protein matrix of the hair is damaged to the point of inducing breakage!
Ever imagined that something as simple as a few strands of hair can betray something as serious as drug abuse? Well, you have the hair drug testing facts right here! You may pass a urine drug test if you are a very low level abuser but your hair preserves the history of your substance abuse for years!
Almost all US states have many local drug testing centers that offer hair follicle drug testing facilities. Take advantage of home drug testing kits, which can be ordered online. If not for health, at least for your reputation's sake, stay away from abusing drugs and illegal substances. In case of a random test, your own hair would testify against you!