Understanding The Facts About Hair Follicle Drug Testing

The Main Reasons for Drug Testing

Many companies rely on drug testing for any new employee to ensure they are hiring someone who does not have an addiction to harmful drugs or medications. This is usually done before a final contract is signed. In some companies, yearly or random drug testing might be necessary if the employee works in sector in which an addiction will impair their ability to perform on the job.

There are other reasons why drug testing is carried out. Most notably is within the sports arena, whereby athletes are tested to see if they have been using drugs to affect their performance and increase their speed and endurance.

In some legal cases, drug testing is carried out to see if the person who was already convicted has maintained the conditions of their parole or probation and abstained from drugs. Less notably, drug testing is used to discover if someone has been poisoned.

Comparison of Saliva, Blood and Urine Testing

Previously, drug testing was completed by taking a blood or urine sample, or in some cases, a saliva sample. Testing saliva for drugs is also completed in some instances. However, it is not as effective as detecting drug use compared to the other methods. Saliva testing is mainly used to detect if drug use happened when less than 48 hours.

The problem with the blood sample is that the presence of drug might be filtered out quickly without the presence of the drug being detected when the test is done. Testing for drugs within a blood sample is more invasive, thus requiring the person to actually go into a medical facility and have blood drawn.

However, with a urine sample, the presence of a drug or medication is found to be there for a longer time inside the urine, as compared to the blood sample. Since they have become so common within the United States, some people have found ways of getting around the urine tests such as using a good (clean) friend’s urine. Thus there is a higher level of error associated with urine drug testing and they are only moderately accurate in detecting certain drugs and not the drugs most commonly used. Unless there are cells released in the urine, there is also no way to genetically match a person to a urine sample.

These are just some facts about hair follicle drug testing and how it is has become more popular than urine drug testing. The presence of the drug can be deposited and detected within the hair for up to three months. Thus, if the person has only recently stop taking the drug just to pass the drug test, it will still be detected by hair follicle testing.

How is The Test Carried Out?

Hair is mainly taken from the top of the head, but body hair can be used and this will give a longer history of drug use in at least the past six months. Even though the actual hair follicle is not living, the cells at the base of the follicle are alive and these skin cells will deposit drugs and minerals that they come into contact with from the blood.

Therefore, this is one way of the body to filter the blood. However, with a hair sample, it is possible to detect drugs that would not normally be detected in a urine sample. Also, if some of the cells at the base of the hair follicle are included in the sample, this might be genetically linked to the person who gave the sample. Thus, there is less risk of fraud or deception.

According to the facts about hair follicle drug testing, once the hair sample is obtained, it is treated to breakdown the strands and release the components of the drugs and minerals stored within it. A machine called will then detect the various drugs the person has digested. The sample can also be sent away to a laboratory that specializes in testing of hair samples. This test is also used to detect if someone is deficient or has a toxic level of certain minerals.


Web Source: Lab Tests Online, American Association For Clinical Chemistry. 2010. "Drugs of Abuse Testing." Available at: https://www.labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/drug_abuse/test.html