Growing Popularity of Hair Drug Testing


Drug testing is now an integral process that has become routine in society both in the private sector and the government. It is a vital tool across industries in helping ensure workplace safety, preventing drug addiction, increasing work efficiency, and maintaining an overall healthy work environment.

However, with substance abuse becoming a concerning global issue, conventional drug testing methods have faced limitations. Now, hair drug testing has emerged as a strong alternative, gaining significant popularity in recent years due to its ability to provide a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of an individual’s drug history.

In this article, we discuss the intricacies of hair drug testing, explore its advantages, and factors contributing to its rising prominence, providing you with valuable insights whether you are an employer seeking to implement effective drug screening protocols, or an individual interested in understanding this innovative testing method.

Key Takeaways

What is hair drug testing?

Hair drug testing, also known as “hair follicle test”, is a method that detects drugs or their metabolites in hair strands.  It is easy to order a hair drug test, call 866-843-4545 or order online.

With longer detection window, hair drug testing provides information about an individual’s history of illicit drug use or prescription drug misuse. It is commonly applied in workplace drug screening, legal cases, forensic settings, and rehabilitation programs due to its accuracy and ability to provide a historical record of drug use.

Advantages of hair drug testing

Hair strand drug test can be a great option for employers, courts, and rehabilitation facilities as it is a reliable and accurate method of screening for illicit drug use. Notably, hair drug testing offers several advantages over other drug testing methods.

Here are some key advantages:

  1. Longer detection window: One of the primary advantages of hair drug testing is its ability to detect drug use over a longer period compared to urine or blood tests. While urine tests typically have a detection window of a few days to a few weeks and saliva test detection window of 5-48 hours, hair drug testing can provide a historical record of drug use spanning several months (approximately 90 days). This makes it particularly useful for assessing long-term or chronic drug use.
  2. Difficult to adulterate: Hair drug testing is more difficult to tamper with compared to other testing methods. Adulteration or substitution of a hair sample is highly challenging, as the collection process is observed, and the sample is securely sealed. This enhances the integrity and accuracy of the test results, making it a reliable screening method.
  3. Non-invasive: Collecting a hair sample is a non-invasive procedure that does not require specialized medical personnel. It is a relatively simple process that can be conducted in various settings, such as workplaces or drug testing facilities, without causing discomfort or requiring extensive equipment.
  4. Comprehensive drug detection: Hair drug testing has the capability to detect a wide range of drugs, including barbiturates, benzodiazepines, propoxyphene, marijuana, cocaine, opioids, amphetamines, and more. It provides a comprehensive analysis of an individual’s drug use history, offering valuable insights for various purposes, such as employment screening, legal proceedings, or monitoring drug treatment programs.
  5. Drug use historical record: Due to the hair’s growth cycle, hair drug testing provides a chronological record of drug use over time. This can be particularly useful in cases where a detailed timeline of drug exposure is required, such as in legal or forensic investigations.

Overall, the longer detection window, difficulty in adulteration, non-invasiveness, comprehensive drug detection, and historical record make hair drug testing a preferred choice for many organizations and individuals seeking reliable and accurate drug screening.

How does hair drug testing work?

Hair drug testing involves the analysis of a small sample of hair to detect the presence of drugs or their metabolites. The method takes advantage of the mechanism of drugs entering the hair through blood, sweat, sebum, and exposure to external environment.

As hair grows at an approximate rate of half an inch per month, a segment of hair can be analyzed to determine drug exposure at specific time points, revealing drug use patterns over an extended period. The sample—typically about 1.5 inches long—represents approximately 90 days of drug use history.

How is the hair drug testing process done?

In the laboratory, the hair sample is washed to remove any external contaminants. Then, the hair is finely ground and subjected to a process known as extraction, where the drug compounds or metabolites are isolated from within the hair shaft. While often referred to as a “hair follicle test,” it is important to note that this drug test specifically examines cut strands of hair rather than the actual follicle under the scalp.

Advanced analytical techniques, such as immunoassay or mass spectrometry, are utilized to identify and quantify the presence of specific drugs or their metabolites following established protocols. Initial screening will be performed by the lab and if a positive is detected additional confirmation testing will follow.

The results of the hair drug test will then be reviewed by a certified Medical Review Officer (MRO) to ensure accuracy and reliability. They will contact the individual to discuss the outcome, gather additional information, and verify if there is a legitimate medical explanation for the presence of the detected drugs or metabolites. The MRO will determine if the result is to be reported positive after comprehensive review and verification.

What drugs are screened in hair drug testing?

Drugs screened in hair drug testing varies depending on the type of test and/or panel. Hair follicle test can detect the presence or absence of commonly abused or misused drugs, as listed below:

The exact combinations of drugs that are screened may vary which depend on the drug panel chosen, the purpose of the test, and the laboratory where the test was conducted. The most comprehensive hair drug test available is the 17 Panel Hair Drug Test.

How accurate is a hair drug test?

Hair drug tests are highly accurate in detecting the presence of drugs or their metabolites. When conducted by reputable laboratories using validated methods, hair drug tests yield reliable results. They have a high degree of sensitivity and specificity, minimizing the chances of false positives or false negatives.

However, it’s important to note that no testing method is 100% infallible, and very rare instances of false results can occur due to various factors such as external contamination or certain hair treatments. Nevertheless, when performed correctly and interpreted by qualified professionals, hair drug tests provide a dependable and accurate assessment of drug use over an extended period.

Is hair follicle test the best drug screening method?

In comparison to other biological samples like saliva and urine, hair follicle test is the best drug testing method if you want to determine chronic drug use over a long period of time or if you want to get information on chronic or historical drug use.

However, while hair follicle testing offers several advantages, it may not be universally considered the best method for every scenario. Other testing methods, such as oral fluid, urine or blood tests, may be more suitable in certain cases, such as detecting recent drug use or assessing impairment.

Ultimately, the choice of the best drug screening method depends on factors like the purpose of testing, desired detection window, accuracy requirements, and the specific substances being targeted.

Final words

Hair drug screening is a reliable method in detecting historical drug use and can give valuable information in workplace setting, forensic investigations, legal proceedings, or substance abuse treatment programs. The development of a method through hair strand drug test screening is a step in the right direction to address the growing problem of illicit drug abuse and misuse of prescription medications.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a 5-panel hair follicle drug test?

A 5-panel hair follicle drug test is a type of hair drug screening method that screens for the commonly abused drugs mainly: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine, with a window detection of up to 90 days.

How much is a hair drug test?

The cost of a hair drug test can vary depending on factors such as the location, testing facility, and the type of test. On average, a standard hair drug test can range from $150.00  to $750. However, it’s recommended to contact specific testing facilities or consult with healthcare providers for accurate and up-to-date pricing information.  National Drug Screening offers online ordering of hair drug testing in all areas of the United States.

Can a hair follicle test detect one-time use of alcohol?

No. A hair follicle test is not designed nor is it an apt method in detecting one-time use of alcohol. There is an option with hair to test for Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG). The EtG hair test panel will not measure current impairment but will measure alcohol consumption up to 90 days. 
hair follicle drug testing graphic
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