There are several reasons why you may need drug testing–from court orders to health issues to employment requirements. For decades, urine drug tests were the most common testing method. Today, however, hair drug testing has become a more popular option due to its ability to detect drug exposure.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about hair drug testing.
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Hair Drug Testing: What Is It?
A hair drug test, also known as a hair follicle drug test, is a screening method for illicit drug use as well as misuse of prescription medications. Testers like Lextox can use this testing method to check for a specific drug or test a single hair sample for various drugs and drug classes.
In general, a hair drug test can catch the following drugs:
- Amphetamines include methamphetamine, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) or ecstasy, and methyl diethanolamine (MDEA) or eve.
- Opiates such as morphine, heroin, and codeine
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
A big reason why hair drug testing is preferred over traditional urine testing is it has a longer detection window. Drugs can remain detectable in the hair follicles for up to three months. Also, it’s able to pick up patterns of drug exposure over an extended period. For instance, if you recently started trying to get clean, a hair follicle drug test can pick up on that.
How Does It Work?
During the test, a small amount of your hair is removed and tested for drug metabolites or even the drug itself. The sample should be taken close to the scalp and needs to be 1.5 inches long and as thick as a pencil. In general, the tester will collect hairs from different, inconspicuous spots on your crown to prevent creating a bald spot.
Perhaps you’re wondering how a drug you consume or inhale can be detected in your hair follicles. The short answer is this- every time you consume a drug via any medium, the body breaks it down into metabolites and finds its way to your bloodstream. From the bloodstream, the drug metabolites start to make their way through your entire body, including your hair. The metabolites make their way into your hair follicles and oil glands.
The remnants of the drug will remain in your hair as it grows. This means that these drug metabolites can remain in your hair for months. And it doesn’t just find its way to the hair on your head, these metabolites can also enter other parts of your ‘hairy’ parts of the body including your armpits.
That said, it does take some time–typically 7-10 days–for the drug to find its way to your hair. Thus, an individual with no history of drug use and recently used one within a few days might have a negative result.
How Accurate And Effective Is It?
Hair drug tests are generally effective and accurate. The collection and testing of hair follicles typically follow a specific set of standards to ensure accuracy. For instance, the collected hair is first washed and tested for contamination to minimize inaccuracies in test results.
In addition, hair drug tests are hard to cheat. Using shampoos or hair products that claim to cleanse hair follicles won’t prevent drug metabolites from being detected. However, certain factors may affect the accuracy of the test, including:
- Drug compound structure
- Quantity of drugs consumed
- Coloring or bleaching the hair
- Amount of melanin or dark hair pigment in a hair (Some drugs are found to bind more readily to melanin, causing higher concentrations in darker hair which may not necessarily correlate with drug use.)
How Much Does It Cost?
There’s a range of various at-home hair drug testing kits on the market. You can purchase these kits from pharmacies or online retailers. Some kits are available for a flat rate which includes shipping costs and laboratory testing. However, some sellers may require extra fees for laboratory testing and shipping. In general, packages including testing kits and laboratory tests typically cost USD$100.
On the other hand, hair drug tests performed in a laboratory or hospital are more expensive. The good thing is that most insurance carriers may cover drug tests if it’s performed within a healthcare institution for medical purposes such as an emergency room visit or inpatient stay.
As you can see, hair drug testing is an efficient and accurate way to detect drug use. Whether you’re a business owner screening potential candidates for a new job or a healthcare professional in charge of a patient’s rehabilitation, a hair drug test is an increasingly popular testing method that can help you accurately screen for drug misuse.
Most corporate, medical, educational, and legal institutions have turned to this type of drug testing as a complementary approach to traditional urine-based drug testing.