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Hair Follicle Drug Testing
Hair follicle drug testing is an additional drug testing option for pre-employment and forensic needs.
The five Drug Classes which are mandated for testing by the Federal Government are:
Cocaine (cocaine and benzoylecgonine)
Opiates (Codeine, Morphine and 6-monacteyl morphine)
Methamphetamine (Meth, Amphetamine and Ecstasy)
The detection of the presence of drugs in hair is based on a simple principle. Drugs that are ingested circulate in a person's bloodstream will infiltrate into cells in the body including those in hair follicles. The cells in hair follicles grow and divide rapidly to form hair fiber. As the hair fiber is formed the cells are filled with proteins called keratins and the cells gradually die. The keratins are inert and resistant to solvents. As the keratins accumulate in the dying cells they “preserve” the drugs in the dead cells. Each cell in a hair fiber is like an ice cube. As the ice (keratin) forms anything inside the ice is held in place; it cannot escape. As a result, the keratins stop the drugs from leaving the dead cells. As a result, the drugs can be detected in the hair fiber many moths after drugs were used.
The advantage of using the hair follicle drug testing is that the hair follicle retains a history of drug use for a long time. A strand of hair grows an average of 1/4" per month, so just a 4" length can show drug use as far back as 8 months. Shaving your head before a test cannot help you. The testing facility will take a sample from your underarm or pubic hair if you do not have at least 1" of hair on your scalp.
The hair drug test has shown potential for drug testing both for forensic and pre-employment use. An illegal drugs substance abuser may abstain from using drugs for 3 days to 2 weeks prior to applying for a job. With traditional drug testing using a urine sample, there is a good chance that the applicant will test negative and then start using drugs again once they are hired. There is also the possibility of adulterating the specimen. As a urine sample is usually given in privacy, it is possible for the drug user to provide a sample from a hidden bottle taken when they were not using drugs, or to use a sample from someone else. Companies that implement hair fiber drug testing can be relieved to know that this is not possible with hair testing. There is usually no need to privacy when a hair sample is taken. The hair can be collected by someone else such as a nurse or technician from the drug testing company. This is the reason that hair follicle drug tests for pre-employment or random drug testing have much advantage over the traditional ways of screening.
Abstaining or adulterating the specimen cannot beat hair tests. It just isn't possible. Hair Follicle Testing is a widely used type of drug screening. Any drug that has been in your blood stream gets absorbed by the hair follicles in your scalp. As your hair grows out of these follicles, the hair strands also pick up traces of these drugs. The lab analyzes the root and shaft of a strand of hair for any drug residue.
But there is something which can make the matters more difficult when trying to obtain accurate drug testing results from hair fiber samples. Second hand marijuana smoke and vapor from heroin or cocaine smoking can penetrate the hair fiber. The laboratory test can have difficulty differentiating between hair contaminated by second hand smoke or hair from an actual drug user. So the hair fiber from someone who do not use drugs themselves, but does associate with other drug users, could give a false positive result.
Some companies producing hair care products are capitalizing on the idea many people have that drugs in hair can be washed away. A few companies are advertising for many hair detoxification products that help to pass the drug test. However, the detoxification can only remove the drug from the scalp skin, but not the drug that has been deposited in the root of the hair follicle. So there is still much hope for the hair follicle drug test.