Employers, or drug testers hired by employers, normally ask for urine or blood samples when testing for drugs.
Over time, however, the accuracy of urine and blood drug testing has gone down. This is why employers are turning to another newer, more accurate and harder to beat test option: the hair drug test.
What is a Hair Drug Test?
Unlike traditional drug tests where urine or blood is used as the sample, a hair drug test requires a length of hair as a test sample.
When a drug gets into the body by smoking, injection or sniffing, it gets into the blood stream. Some of this blood ends up in the hair follicles and minutes amount of the drug are trapped there.
As hair grows, it carries with it traces of drugs taken over a certain amount of time.
A hair drug test is carried out to check for these traces.
Sometimes there may not be traces of the drugs, but instead there will be molecules referred to as metabolites. These are byproducts of metabolism, which occurs when the body reacts to chemical substances in ingested drugs.
The New Gold Standard in Drug Testing
The use of hair drug tests is rapidly increasing, overshadowing previously used urine and blood tests.
One reason for this increased popularity is the fact that hair samples can show drug use dating back several weeks and in some cases many months. This is unlike blood or urine samples, which show drug use going back 2 to 3 days only.
Another major advantage of hair drug tests is that they are harder to beat. Synthetic urine, detox pills and other products had become quite effective at beating urine drug tests.
Though some people have tried several methods to rid hair of drug traces before the test, it is very hard to achieve success.
Uses of Hair Drug Tests
Drug tests have always been a mainstay of the employee screening process.
HR departments regularly demand for test samples from recruits and existing employees.
With the falling accuracy of blood testing and urinalysis, HR departments are now opting to go with hair testing.
The Occupational Health and Safety Magazine expressly points out the failing of traditional drug testing methods. The professional magazine recommends to companies the use of hair testing when screening employees for drug use.
The Human Resources Social Network, HR.com says:
Hair tests, are effective in detecting use of drugs in the past three months.
Hair testing is hard to defeat without doing massive damage to head hair.
In that case, hair from the body can be taken as samples.
Though a bit more expensive than the traditional testing methods, hair testing has proven to be extremely reliable in identifying frequent drug users.
Other than in employee drug screening, hair drug tests are also helpful in other cases such as:
- In custody hearings and family courts. A hair drug tests can be used to ascertain the fitness of an individual in taking custody of a child.
- Athletics drug testing.
- Parental concern of drug use in teens.
- In forensics.
Can The Hair Drug Test Be Cheated?
Many doctors and experts are in agreement that it is very hard to defeat the hair drug test.
The simplest way to cheat – shaving your head – is not so foolproof. Hair can be taken from another part of the body.
This has made most HR departments confident of the results gotten from a hair drug test.
Like with other types of drug tests, there are still people who claim they can beat it. Most of these methods involve washing hair with harsh chemicals to try to rid it of any trace amounts of drugs.
There is some evidence that certain shampoos and cleaning regimens can be used to achieve a negative test result. But it is not conclusive, and drug testing companies deny this is possible.
Hair Drug Testing is Here to Stay
Considering all the advantages provided by hair drug testing over urinalysis and blood testing, it is easy to see why it has become so popular.
As the method becomes more refined and made more accurate, it is bound to gain even more proponents.