Hair Drug Testing: The Basics

There are various types of drug testing available such as blood testing and urine testing, but one less frequent type is the hair drug test.

This is when hair strands are sent to a lab for analysis to find out what kinds of drugs someone has taken.

A hair drug test can be performed during pre-employment, at school, as a random test at your job and many more. Make sure to keep reading to find out everything you need to know about hair drug testing.

Which drugs are tested for with hair drug testing

Hair drug testing or “follicle” testing is used for a panel of five most common drugs. These include the following: Amphetamines class of drugs (including ecstasy or methamphetamine), Cocaine (such as “crack” drugs and powder), THC (Marijuana, cannabis products that are edible or hash), Opiates class of drugs (opium, heroin, morphine or even codeine) and Phencyclidine class (including angel dust or PCP).

Typically, your employer will inform you beforehand that you will be subjected to a drug test, but it may also happen that the testing will occur on a random basis without informing you in prior. The most common type of testing is still urine testing because it is the less invasive, but hair drug tests can happen as well.

There is a basic SAMSHA test performed by employers, which includes the most commonly used drugs. However, many employers will choose to test for more types of drugs to out rule the possibility that an applicant or a worker is using any kinds of drugs.

Some of the additions that can be included in the panel include the following: Barbiturates class (and this class comprises downers, Phenobarbital or Butalbital), Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax or Valium), or a Methadone test (this is a special substance used to treat heroin addiction).

It is extremely rare that a hair drug test is used to test for LSD and other Hallucinogens, Steroids or Oxycodone and Vicodin.

How can be drugs found through hair follicle testing

To see how a drug can be found through such a test, it is essential to understand the circulation of these illicit substances in your system. When you consume drugs, these will start circulating throughout your entire body and make their effect. Some types of chemicals found in the drug itself can start accumulating in the follicle of your hair. The substances will start depositing onto the follicle and will stay there sometimes even for months.

When hair drug testing is used, you will be asked to provide experts with a small strand of hair which they will send to the lab for investigations. You do not have to worry though, because they will take only a tiny sample of hair from the back of your head (a few clumps of hair).

It is also important to mention that different drugs have different detection times in human hair. For example, the opiates will stick very closely to the shaft of the hair and can be detected for much longer than cocaine which “circulates” more freely and will not bind so closely to the hair. Cannabis can be detected for up to three months in the hair follicle, after last use.

Technology is so advanced nowadays that experts can even tell with approximates when you used opiate drugs. On the other hand, because cocaine migrates so freely, experts cannot tell approximately when was your last time to use cocaine based drugs. Also, keep in mind that cutting your hair bald to avoid a hair drug test is not a wise option. Experts can still ask you to provide hair samples from other parts of your body, or your employer will ask you to subject to a urine analysis to find out which drugs have been consumed (if any). Other parts of your body that can be tested include underarm hair, leg hair or chest hair.

Can someone trick the hair drug test

Yes, there are some remedies to pass hair drug test. Check our guide and find the one that will work for you.

Can drugs can be detected if a person was only passively exposed to drugs

Many people are quite afraid that if they are subjected to a hair drug test, this test can come out positive even though they do no use actively any drugs. They believe the test results can be altered because they have been exposed to marijuana smoke for example (staying in a room with someone who smokes marijuana). The answer is no. You shouldn’t be afraid, because such cross contamination is not possible.

Typically, hair drug tests are constructed to rule out the possibility of cross-contamination. In the laboratory, they will test for the drug metabolites as well. The metabolites will only be present in the system of someone who consumed these drugs directly, and not in the system of someone who has been exposed to smoke for instance.

The TCH-COOH is a metabolite of Marijuana, and this can be produced only by the system of the person who used it. This metabolite cannot be present in the sample as a result of environmental exposure.

Sometimes, false positive tests can result when the tested person uses certain over the counter medications. This is why it is imperative to let the test administrator know regarding all medicines you are taking (both prescription meds and OTC).