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Hair Testing - Employers

Hair Testing Employers

Testing for drugs can be an important component of any professional workplace. In transportation, it is vitally important as operators of large machinery such as vehicles can have a tremendously negative impact on roads, rails and even runways if they abuse substances that impair their reflexes or judgment. In offices, regular drug use can lead to lapses in judgment and the accumulation of simple errors that could easily be avoided by someone with clear awareness. Drug use can affect not just work, but working relationships, and once it takes hold, it can have a very demoralizing and unprofessional effect on a workplace.

And of course, aside from the actual impact on a workplace’s bottom line, there are the other considerations of drug use to take into account. It is unethical to use drugs while working but, more importantly, it is illegal to abuse certain substances. National Drug Screening offers the highest level of professional monitoring for drug use, and we have a range of different tests, including a newer, more promising evaluation method known as the hair follicle drug test.

Many employers today are starting to test for drugs with hair samples. Although called hair follicle drug testing, the hair follicle is not actually tested; only the strands of hair above the scalp are tested. Today we see many trucking companies administering hair testing in addition to the required DOT urine drug testing for truck drivers. Other industries that are often using hair testing include food industries, gaming industry, auto manufacturing, oil and gas and also financial industries. These companies using hair drug testing know that drug use can cost the company money and drug use among employees provides for huge exposure to liability. A big benefit of hair testing is that the potential for the employee or applicant to cheat on the test is almost impossible. Hair drug testing will provide a strong deterrent to substance abuse.

The Lingering Effect

The standard urine test, such as the 10 panel drug test we also offer, is very easy to administer because it only requires subjects to donate a urine sample, which can then be sent to a lab and the results are professionally evaluated by a medical review officer (MRO). When drugs have been consumed, certain elements referred to as metabolites will remain in the urine, and it is these metabolites that come up positive on a review of the sample. However, the “lifespan” for which metabolites remain in the urine is limited. At the uppermost limit, metabolites in urine will remain detectable for approximately a week at most, whereas on the lowest end—such as alcohol—metabolites are untraceable after only 90 minutes.

A hair follicle drug test is different. This is a relatively recent development in drug screening, but the results have been extremely valuable even at this early stage. By taking a hair sample from the subject, and subjecting it to testing, it has been found that metabolites from drugs can be detectable in a hair follicle drug test up to 90 days after usage, perhaps even more in the case of some drugs. The metabolites that remain active in the blood stream during drug use will circulate around the entire body, and eventually some of these metabolites will be deposited in the head, attaching themselves to growing hair. Once deposited in the hair, these metabolites retain their potency—and thus their detectability—for a much longer period of time. Perhaps more interestingly, because these metabolites are deposited every time a drug is used, a hair follicle drug test can be a good test for monitoring that a substance abused is not using or again using illegal drugs.

Although commonly called a hair follicle test, the actual hair follicle is not tested. The hair is cut as close to the scalp as possible, so only the strands of hair above the scalp are tested.

How It Works

A hair follicle drug test requires a hair sample for analysis. 100 milligrams of hair, or approximately 100 - 120 strands at about 4 cm or 1.5” in length are required for a good sample for analysis. If the hair on the head is too short for this collection or the subject is bald, then any other body hair that meets the weight requirements can also be used, including body hair from chest, arms, lets or under arms. Of course, this also brings up the one major stumbling block in a hair follicle drug test; while doing it is pretty much an admission of guilt, it is impossible to conduct the test on someone that has shaved off all their body hair. Of course, people that go to such lengths for personal reasons are a rarity. This one extreme measure aside however, it is extremely difficult to cheat this test with a donated hair sample; even rigorous shampoos and other cleaners cannot eliminate the metabolites that are embedded in the follicle. A hair collection is always direct observed which again makes it very difficult to cheat.

As with a urine panel test, a hair test can also be subject to panel testing, with appropriate charges made for the number of panels you’d like to test for. Because of the longer term nature of hair follicle testing it is particularly useful for pre-screening on employment as most applicants will not have flushed their system for three months leading to an application.