Hair Drug Testing
There are many different ways to test for the presence of drugs within the body. Urine tests are perhaps the most well-known in professional situations. Breath tests are now in force in roadside situations and nightclubs to test for alcohol and other signs of intoxication. Saliva tests can also play their part for short-term drug use.
Drug testing through hair is different because of the lifespan of metabolites within the hair strands and the accuracy. A well-prepared sample can provide evidence on different substances over a long time frame.
What Are Testers Looking For Hair Drug Testing?
Drug tests on hair help us to determine the use of many different substances. The range of the sample also determines how long users have been taking the drug. That is ideal when trying to determine habitual use or incidents from more than a week ago.
The majority of tests can are in use to determine the abuse of many common drugs. That includes cannabis, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, meth and ketamine. Some will look for them all while others focus on a specific substance. The wider the drug panel, the better the chance of finding those important metabolites.
Why Is This Form Of Drug Testing So Popular Now?
Hair tests are popular because of this range of drugs, the long detection window and the ease of use. Every cm of hair is a window into the drug habits of the user over a month. A 3cm section of hair is all that we need to look back over three months.
This is the main reason why hair tests are so popular compared to urine tests. Urine tests only work if the drugs have entered the system a few days before the sample. Saliva tests are even worse. This clear time line is important for anyone that is going through counseling and support for drug use. This is because it can prove how long they have been clean.
Many facilities are also adapting to meet the needs of clients. 254 new drugs have appeared on the market in the UK since 2005. That means that drug panels need to be broader and more sensitive. The best can help those dealing with prescription drug abuse, such as antidepressants and opiates, and new legal highs. Some tests can cover more than 100 drug types in one screening. Others are more specialized towards the suspected substance.
How Is The Sample Collected?
The precise method of hair drug testing in the UK will depend on two key factors. First, is the thickness of hair and the likelihood of it containing metabolites. The second is the types of drugs technicians are testing for. That usually means an average of 100-200 strands of hair per sample.
These strands are then prepared in the appropriate solutions and tested to see what chemicals remain. Eventually, sample sizes will decrease as technology evolves. Some hair testing facilities can offer an extended wash process to determine deeper traces of contamination. It is rare because of the extra time was taken, but it can make a big difference.
Are There Any Risks Of False Positives With This Form Of Drug Testing?
The concern for those receiving counseling and support for drug use is the risk of a false positive, despite being clean. This is not eliminated with hair testing, as some chemical treatments may affect the final result. Some people deliberately cut, dye or bleach their hair to hide the results.
Clients are now warned not to do either because of the risk of a false positive. Users should also note that positive results tend to occur more often in darker hair than light hair. Some people of African or Caribbean heritage view this as a bias. The truth is that this hair simply contains more melanin for the metabolites to attach to.
Is Hair Testing The Best Way Forward?
Every form of drug test has its pros and its cons. Hair samples can take a while to process if using wide panels and extensive washes. However, the range of drugs we can now locate and the window of time are both beneficial in many cases. Hair testing has proven to be a big help in cases of drug abuse across the UK. Any improvements to sample collection and sensitivity mean that it can only get better.