Hair Testing Benefits and Challenges

Welcome to the National Drug Screening video blog series. I’m your host, Tom Fulmer. And make sure you like or subscribe down below on our YouTube channel here as we have some great topics that we put out on a regular basis to help you be more informed and educated about things all drug testing related.

Today’s topic is hair testing. The benefits and challenges associated with that, getting collections done and getting results out.

Hi, I’m Tom Fulmer with National Drug Screening, and today we’re talking about hair testing.

So, one of the things associated with hair testing is people sometimes aren’t familiar with exactly what happens, what’s available, what could go wrong, and actually how to accomplish it. Hair testing is something that we’ve seen become more mainstream over the last several years, and we’re going to see that continue to increase as well. Testing with using hair as opposed to a urine drug screen, one, it can’t be cheated. Unlike a urine drug screen, which, as you can tell from many things out there, you can prepare for the test potentially. But hair testing has some different benefits as well. Hair testing looks back from about 10 days up to about 90 days. What that means is it’s giving you a lifestyle look back of whether somebody’s been abusing or using illegal or illicit drugs. Now, that being said, something that’s going to be more short term, sometime within the last 10 days that’s being tested is not going to show up in a hair test. So, there are a few challenges associated with that.

One of the things that hair testing has really found a benefit is with trucking companies. So large trucking companies have actually implemented hair testing alongside of the required federally mandated DOT urine drug screen testing. The reason they did that is because the drug tests using urine can potentially be cheated. But also, somebody could potentially stop using drugs for a fairly short period of time, still be abusing drugs and pass the urine drug screen. By doing a combination of urine testing and hair testing, what they found is a greatly reduced positivity rate across the board for all the people they were testing. So, hair testing has been used in a number of industries. Right now, it’s not federally mandated, it’s not allowed for federal testing, but it can be used under a company policy in conjunction with.

Hair testing has also been used traditionally for court ordered testing, probation testing potentially, or with substance abuse or substance treatment programs. There have been some instances where hair testing has been used for employment testing. There are a few challenges I’m going to talk about in just a minute associated with that.

One of the benefits of using hair testing is for second chance agreements with employment. You can actually see some information about second chance agreements on our website, on our blog at for a little more information about how that works.

So, I’m going to talk about, first of all, some of the benefits of hair testing.

  • A long look back time frame.
  • It’s not something that can be easily adulterated or cheated.
  • And it can test for most of the common drugs out there.

So, 3 benefits right there.

There are also some challenges.

  • What happens if someone has no hair? That can definitely be a challenge.
  • What if they have no head hair but they have beard hair or body hair? That can potentially be done.
  • What if they’re completely shaved head to toe?

And yes, we have had that happen before. We’ve actually had employers call us up when they’ve implemented hair testing and tell us that one of their employees came to work the next day with no hair. Literally, they shaved their whole head, their body, everything, afterwards. That’s not something you can actually make a decision on, but that’s definitely something that causes concern.

So, there’s a few challenges. You have to have a backup plan in place. You have to know how you’re going to handle it if a hair testing cannot be completed for that particular employee.

Another challenge for that is it doesn’t give you any type of close or immediate use. It’s only going to give you from about 10 days out to about 90 days, typically. The reason is, any time someone takes drugs or uses any drugs, either legally or illegally, it takes a little while to metabolize into the, into the hair from the body. And head hair grows out about half an inch a month, so you can imagine it’s going to take a little bit of time to actually get into the hair specimen.

Also limited use, one time use is less likely to be detected in hair versus urine or oral fluid or one of the other specimen types. So, there’s some trade offs with that as well.

Now, hair testing can also be used for alcohol testing using ETG or ethyl glucuronide, and that is the metabolite of alcohol or consumed alcohol. So, it can be used for that as well as for drugs.

Now, one limitation of hair testing is it doesn’t test for as many drugs as you could potentially test for in urine, which has been the gold standard and been around for a long period of time. But you should still test for most of the common drugs that are out there.

A second challenge with hair testing is getting the collection completed. Unlike with the urine, where it’s very clear and easy to measure at the point of collection, how much specimen is there, with hair testing sometimes if the collector does not collect enough hair for the specific specimen required, then it may get rejected at the laboratory because they don’t have a sufficient sample to be able to get the test completed. You also have a longer time frame to get the testing completed. It takes more effort to test hair than it does for urine drug screens. So those are a few of the issues that may come up using hair testing.

Overall, hair testing is a great tool. It depends on what you are trying to accomplish, like with anything else that’s substance abuse related testing, there are positives and negatives for anything that you do out there, whether it’s urine drug screens, hair testing, or oral fluid. Hair testing is a great option in the right circumstances, but it may not be the only option for you or even the best option. So, the best thing to do is find out what you are looking to accomplish, determine how the different specimen types can work for you, and then make that decision. And finding out the right information is really key.

You know, out there if you Google it, it has got to be true, right? Well, do not take me on that because we know if you Google it, it may or may not be anywhere close to the truth. That is why we put so much information on national drug on our blog because we wanted people to have the right information. We want them to have accurate information. We want them to have the resources they can verify that information themselves.

Also, our team is very well trained to be able to answer those questions for you. And that is what we do. We educate people. We believe knowledge is power and knowledge shared is power multiplied. So that is something that we really work hard to provide, the right information and keep all the things updated.

One last thing I am going to leave you about different specimen types, whether it’s hair or something else. That may or may not be allowed in your specific state or if you’re required to follow specific regulations. So, make sure you check those. We have a state laws pages on our website but also make sure you check your own state laws for yourself.

Tom Fulmer with National Drug Screening, make sure you visit our blog again at Make sure you like and subscribe below because we do put out a lot of great videos, a lot of great resources and put in a comment out there if you want to see something different that we haven’t put out there, we’re always happy to do that. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next time.