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Hair Drug Testing

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A hair follicle drug test, also known as a forensic toxicology test, identifies if someone has used drugs in the past five to 90 days. Hair drug tests have a much longer detection period than a urine test, which can usually detect drugs and alcohol consumption for about a week. A hair drug test can be effectively used to identify chronic, repeated, or binge use over an extended time period. Although hair testing is a relatively new methodology, it is becoming a more popular choice for employers and courts, due to the long look-back it offers. If the person being tested does not have enough head hair, body hair can be used as the sample. This type of drug testing can be used for pre-employment screening or periodic workplace drug testing of employees.

At Health Street, we conduct various hair drug test panels at more than 10,000 nationwide clinics. Choose a hair drug test and pick a clinic location using our convenient online portal.

What is a Hair Follicle Drug Test?

After ingesting drugs, they will enter the person's bloodstream. While the body metabolizes the drugs, the metabolites circulate through their blood. Since blood nourishes the hair follicles, any drugs that have been consumed and their metabolites are deposited into the hair follicle. As the person's hair grows from that follicle, evidence of their drug use stays intact indefinitely.

Even though this is called a hair follicle test, it is the strands of hair that are tested and not the follicle ("root") itself. In our hair follicle testing, we use the first 1.5 inches of hair growth, measured from the base. This equates to an approximately 90-day history of drug usage. If the person's head hair measures less than an inch and a half, we can test their body hair. While it is debated how long the detection window is for body hair, our lab estimates that it is 90 to 365 days.

Pros and Cons of Hair Drug Tests

Longer look back than urine test (up to 90 days or more)
Very difficult to cheat (we cut the hair right from the person's head or body)
Less mess than a urine test
If person has no head or body hair, then the test can't be done
Bleached hair is a less stable reservoir of drug metabolites than untreated hair
The look back period on body hair can vary from person to person. For example, some studies show darker hair retains drugs better than lighter hair

Frequently Asked Questions

How are urine tests different than hair tests?

Urine tests detect drug use for about a week, whereas hair tests detect prescription and illicit drugs for as long as 90 days. Urine tests are more common, but hair testing shows repeated use.

How effective are hair drug tests?

Hair drug testing is an extremely effective way to identify habitual substance use over an extended time period, but only in people who have enough hair to provide a sufficient sample. This type of test is nearly impossible to cheat at.

Our technicians cut the person's hair directly from their head. The type of shampoo the person uses cannot change the hair's ability to show evidence of drug use.

However, bleached hair tends to be less stable for retaining remnants of drugs. Incidental or occasional use, such as just once in the past three months, will often not get picked up in a hair follicle screening. Also, if someone used drugs in the past five days, the hair would not have had enough time to grow out from the hair follicle into hair strands that we can easily cut and test.

How does hair drug testing work?

We use a small amount of hair (approximately 120 strands), which are cut and then sent to our lab for analysis. At least 1.5 inches of hair is required for this screening method. We can use a hair sample from the head, leg, chest, or armpit.

Some of our testing clinics will only perform the test with head hair, whereas others can also use body hair. Your employee should not bring pre-cut hair. Their hair must be cut by one of our technicians at a licensed clinic.

What about second-hand smoke?

The person being tested may ask if environmental exposure, such as secondhand marijuana smoke, will cause positive results from a hair test. The answer is no, because we test for not just the drug itself, but the metabolites that the body creates when the person inhales the smoke. Even if marijuana smoke gets trapped in the hair, if they didn't inhale it, their hair will not show evidence of metabolites and the result will be negative.

How long do hair follicle screenings take for results?

After the hair sample is collected, it is delivered to one of our certified labs for professional analysis. With a basic drug test, such as the 5 panel, negative test results usually come back in 2-3 business days. The more complex 9, 12, or 14 panel hair follicle drug tests, and the hair alcohol test, takes longer (3-5 business days).

For non-negative results, confirmation testing is conducted, which adds a few days to the test processing time.

What drugs can be detected in a hair test?

The hair follicle test can detect nearly all common prescription medications and street drugs. This includes marijuana, cocaine, opiates, benzodiazepines, ecstasy, oxycodone, fentanyl and much more. The substances included in a hair follicle test range from 5 to 17 panels, including specialized panels that test for alcohol consumption.

Why Use Health Street for Hair Drug Testing

Although hair drug testing is easy to administer by trained technicians, it is still a relatively new technology and many drug testing companies have limited experience with it. Therefore, it is important that you use a company that performs this type of drug testing and hair analysis every day. Health Street is a leader in hair drug panels and our expertise helps make the testing process as easy and efficient as possible.

At Health Street:

All hair samples are examined by certified laboratories.
For non-negative initial screenings, all tests include GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) confirmation tests.
Every hair follicle drug test is reviewed by one of our certified Medical Review Officers (MROs) prior to releasing the results.
People who are using legally prescribed medications can provide proof to our doctors. If they are taking the prescribed dosage, they will be listed as "negative" on the MRO's final report.

Our professional representatives are available to discuss your drug screening requirements. We can help you develop, design, and implement a hair follicle drug testing program that will meet your personal, business, or court-related objectives. Just call (888) 378-2499 for assistance.