The hair drug test, which is also known as the hair follicle drug test, is a non-intrusive, advanced, and accurate technique to identify illicit drug use by an individual. The testing procedure involves the collection of hair strands from the concerned person’s head and their analysis in the laboratory. The test results help to establish whether the person has a history of drug abuse or prescription medication misuse or not.
Applications of Hair Drug Test
The most common use of a hair drug test is in pre-employment screening. Employers and organizations are rightly concerned about the possibility of substance abuse by candidates appearing for job interviews. The drug test is one of the many background checks that employers conduct on the shortlisted candidates before finalizing the job offers. There are other organizations like educational institutes that follow a zero-tolerance drug use policy and thus use these tests to offer admissions.
Drug tests are also a part of forensic investigations and court procedures across many regions. For instance, a court may use the results of these tests to support their decisions in cases like domestic violence and child custody.
Healthcare professionals too sometimes need to get these tests done. Usually, these are done for patients who show the high risks of drug abuse. The evaluations based on these treatments may prove useful in deciding the treatment course. With the availability of easy and confidential home hair drug test kits online, any person may conduct this test based on his or her reasons.
Hair Vs Other Drug Test Options
Apart from hair drug tests, two other popular options are oral (saliva) drug tests and urine drug tests. However, using hair for drug testing offers a big advantage over the other two. While urine and saliva drug testing provides results for short-term or recent drug use, the hair drug test assesses regular or long-term drug use. Here are the general drug detection windows for each of these options:
- Oral drug test: Up to 48 hours
- Urine drug test: From 3 days up to a week
- Hair drug test: Depending on the hair strands’ lengths, the test allows detection of drugs even months after their use
It can, therefore, be established that drug tests based on hair are useful in better screening of an individual as these report months-old drug use. On the other hand, the test might not be effective in assessing recent drug use. For instance, the test is not a good choice in case of a workplace accident for which the drug use by the concerned employee might be the cause. In such situations, saliva or urine samples may provide better assessments.
Importance of Hair Growth Rate
The reason why hair samples can assess the long-term and not short-term drug use can be best explained based on the hair growth rate. Because this rate is slow, the drugs consumed 5-7 days before the test simply won’t show up in the samples. However, the hair strands may help in detecting drug use which might be older by a month or more.
Usually, an individual’s head hairs grow at a rate of 0.5 inches per month. So, here’s how different hair strand sample lengths can affect the drug detection window:
- 0.5 inch: One month
- 1 inch: Two months
- 1.5 inch: Three months and so on
Consequently, the hair drug test is considered useful in assessing the drug use history of up to 3 months.
How Does Hair Drug Test Work?
The hair drug test works based on the simple fact that a drug after entering the body mixes into the bloodstream. It is from this bloodstream that the drug becomes a component of the hair cells and stays in the hair strands. As a result, its presence is confirmed when the hair strands undergo laboratory tests.
Step-by-Step Procedure of Hair Drug Test
Before you know the procedure followed for a hair drug test, here are some terms you should understand:
- Chain of Custody Form: It is a legal document that testifies that the hair samples for testing as well the test results are not tampered with. Each of the donors, the collector, the employer, and the test facility must retain one copy of this form.
- Donor: The person whose hairs are collected for a hair drug test.
Collector: The person who cuts and collects the samples from the donor.
- ELISA: Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay is the first stage of the hair drug test.
- GA-MS: Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry is the second stage of the test.
The hair drug test is performed using a hair follicle drug test kit. Many suck kits can be ordered online. In general, these kits have the following components:
- Collection foil to wrap the hair strands
- Hair specimen pouch in which the collection foil is placed
- Identity seal
- Specimen bag in which the hair specimen pouch and a copy of the Chain of Custody form are placed for shipping.
Here are the steps of the hair drug test:
1. Fill the Chain of Custody Form: Complete the form correctly providing donor’s information as required.
2. Sample Collection: The collector would need scissors and a hair clip. Use the clip to raise the hair strands and carefully cut the hairs in the desired length (0.5-1.5 inches) from as close as possible to the hair roots. Wrap the samples in the collection foil, place the foil inside the specimen pouch, and fix the provided identity seal on it. Finally, store it in a specimen bag.
3. Ship the Sample: Place the bag inside a pre-addressed envelope and ship it to the testing laboratory using one of the prescribed modes.
4. Test Conducted: ELISA is performed on the hair sample. It may lead to three different results:
- Negative: It means that the donor doesn’t have any drug use history for the past 3 months or 90 days.
- Positive: If the test shows a positive result, the samples undergo a GC-MS test to reconfirm the results. If it again tests positive, it means the donor has a history of drug use or medication misuse.
- Inconclusive: The test may fail to show any results. It happens rarely and mainly because of improper sample collection or inadequate sample quantity. If it happens, the sample must be recollected.
Other Products for Drug Test
Similar to the instant hair drug test kits, there are other drug test products one may order online. Each of them is easy to use and promises rapid results for purposes ranging from pre-employment screening to forensic investigations. Some of these include:
- Multiple Panel Drug Test Cup: These testing devices are used to detect drugs in urine. The person being tested needs to collect his or her urine in the cup up to a designated volume. The cup has multiple panels, each indicating a different drug, which changes color within a few minutes to show positive or negative results.
- Multi-line Drug Screen Test: The device is similar to the multi-panel drug test cup. The person being tested must add the drops of his or her urine on the designated spots using the provided eye dropper. The appearance of colored lines on the screen indicates the positive or negative results for different drugs.
- Drug Test Dip Card: Another device used for drug detection using urine samples, it can also be used conveniently at home and provides results within minutes. The person being tested must dip the card into his or her urine sample. Observe the appearance of the colored lines to conclude positive or negative results.
It is worth mentioning that each of the above-mentioned products is useful for short-term or recent drug testing. On the other hand, a hair drug test kit is the right choice to detect the drug use history for months.
How to Buy the Right Drug Test Kit?
If you start searching for hair drug test kits, you may come across several products available with different laboratories and test facilities. Here are some tips that may guide you to choose the best one:
Various drug test kits are designed to test and detect different drug categories like cocaine, opiate, marijuana, amphetamines, and so on. So, your selection must be based on your drug testing requirements and the drug categories you wish to test.
Check the reviews of different laboratories and their kits. An important factor is the level of protection against tampering and adulteration that the kit offers. Make sure that the kit you choose comes with tamper-proof specimen storage pouches and protection seals.
Does the laboratory from which you order a hair drug test kit has enough accreditations? Check whether it is CAP and CLIA accredited or not.
Learn about the accuracy of the results that a kit promises. Ask the laboratory if certain factors may influence the results and order a kit that offers maximum accuracy.
The cost might be a factor, but it should not make you buy the cheap-quality test kits. You can easily compare the costs of the best-rated testing kits online.
How fast do the hair drug test kits offer results?
The first test stage ELISA provides results within 24 hours while the second stage test GC-MS may take more than 72 hours to generate the test reports.
How many hair strands must be provided?
As per the prescribed standards, the donor must collect between 90 and 120 hair strands (around 100 mg) from the crown area. The strands collected must form a bunch with a thickness of a shoelace tip or a thin pencil.
What if the donor doesn’t have enough head hair?
In case the donor has thin or short hair, the quantity of the hair strands must be increased. The hair drug test can also be performed on the hair strands collected from other body parts. However, the length of these hairs must be above 0.5 inches or as prescribed by the laboratory. Also, the hairs from the head and other body parts should not be mixed.
Can break or fallen hairs are used for a drug test?#Top
No! Fallen hairs or hairs collected from hairbrushes can’t be used as samples. The collector must cut the fresh hair strands from the donor’s head.
Which drugs do hair drug tests detect?
The main categories of drugs that can be detected using hair drug tests include cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, opiates, methamphetamines, phencyclidine, and methylenedioxymethamphetamine.
Do hair care and styling products and treatments affect the test results?
No! The common hair care products including shampoos and conditioners, gels, sprays, and others are not known to alter or influence the test results. Likewise, treatments like bleaching and dyeing usually don’t hamper the results.
Why does the test’s positive result require reconfirmation?
Once ELISA confirms the positive result, the GC-MS is conducted to reconfirm. It is done to ascertain that certain foods like poppy seeds and some prescription medications have not led to a positive result.
What is the usual cost of the test?
Generally, the at-home hair drug test kit cost is below $100. However, many laboratories offer online discounts on these kits. On the other hand, you may have to pay $25-30 more if you get the test done in a laboratory.
Who pays for the test?
In the case of pre-employment screening, the employer pays the test cost. If the donor is already an employee, the employer might have to bear the test cost as well as the cost to compensate the donor’s time. You may also check with the health insurance providers whether they offer a cover for the test or not.
How is the donor’s privacy safeguarded? #Top
A hair drug test, or any other drug test, requires written consent from the donor. Also, the entire process of sample collection and packaging is performed in a clear view of the donor. The identity seal further ensures that the donor’s privacy is not compromised.
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