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HAIR TESTING - What is it and why is it used?

Why is Hair testing used?
How is the hair tested?
How long does it take for drugs to get into the hair follicle?
Is there a specific form used for the collection process?
How secure is the hair after being collected?
Is there more than one type of hair test for drugs?
What Drugs will either test detect?
When is it appropriate to utilize hair testing for drugs?
What is the timing process for hair testing?
Can you tell exactly when the donor used drugs?



Why is Hair testing used?
Hair testing for drugs is used for the following reasons:
  1. Holds up in court.
  2. Cannot be adulterated (results cannot be effected by shampoos, washes, internal concoctions).
  3. Yields a 90 day history of drug use. Longer periods of time can be achieved if required.
  4. Substitutions of another person's hair is not possible. The collection is performed in person and the donor has to present a picture Identification.
  5. Results are not affected by ethnicity, long hair, straight hair, curly hair or permed hair. All types of hair will provide correct information on drug usage.
  6. Hair testing finds 2 times as many positives as urine testing.
  7. We have collection sites nationwide.
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How is the hair tested?

The hair sample is washed to eliminate all outside contaminants. This is one reason that shampoos do not clear the hair of drugs. The drug gets into the hair follicle thru the blood stream. Drugs in the bloodstream are able to incorporate and bind to the hair follicles underneath the scalp. Washing the hair with the shampoos sold over the counter and on the Internet is not effective at all.

There is a two step process in testing hair samples (using an FDA-cleared testing system).
  1. The first test is to screen the hair using an Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay process. This is routinely used in initial hair and urine analysis. If this process shows no drug usage, the test is complete.
  2. If the first test shows a presumptively positive reading for any of the detected drugs, the second process if employed. This is either gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) or gas chromatography/mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry (GC/MS/MS).
  3. These results are 100% accurate and will hold up in court and are forensically defensible.

The preferred hair used in drug testing is head hair:


The collection center would cut approximately 120 strands of hair as close to the scalp as possible. All of the hair would be sent to the lab but they would only use the first 1 1/2". The hair is wrapped in a piece of foil, oriented to show which part is closest to the scalp. Hair can be tested as short as 1/2" but more hair would be needed. The amount of hair required would resemble the size of a cotton ball. It is possible that the donor won't have enough head hair length.


In that case, body hair would have to be used:


Body hair will yield approximately 9 - 12 months of drug use history.
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How long does it take for drugs to get into the hair follicle?
It takes approximately 7 - 12 days for the drug to be present in the hair follicle.
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Is there a specific form used for the collection process?
The form is called a Custody and Control Form (CCF). This is a five part form with copies going to the donor, the donor's employer/attorney, the collector, the Quest Diagnostics Lab and the Medical Review Officer (MRO). This form is signed and dated by both the collector and the donor.
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How secure is the hair after being collected?
The hair is never taken out of the sight of the donor. After the hair is wrapped in the foil, it is placed in an envelope, signed by the donor and sealed with a tamper-proof tape. This tape is also signed and dated. The envelope, along with the Lab and MRO copy of the Custody and Control Form, is placed into another envelope and sealed. This is then placed in a FedEx envelope and sealed again. This whole process is done in front of the donor.
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Is there more than one type of hair test for drugs?
There are two different types of hair tests. The newest test has the added advantage of detecting additional opioids as well as synthetic and semi-synthetic opiates.
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What Drugs will either test detect?

Standard Hair Test will Detect the following:
Amphetamines
  • Amphetamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • MDA (Methylenedioxy-Amphetamine)
  • MDMA - Ecstasy (Methylenedioxy-Methamphetamine)

Cocaine/Metabolites
  • Benzoylecgonine
  • Cocaine
  • Cocaethylene

Marijuana Metabolite
  • THC-COOH

Opiates
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Heroin Metabolite (6-Monoacetylmorphine or 6-MAM)

Phencyclidine
  • PCP

Hair Test with Expanded Opiates will detect the following in addition to the above drugs:
Hydromorphone
Hydrocodone
Oxymorphone
Oxycodone
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When is it appropriate to utilize hair testing for drugs?
Court ordered drug testing
Divorce
Child Custody/Child Support
Pre-Employment
Doctors licensed to prescribe Suboxone (Opioid treatment drug)
Spouses (confirm spouse is abstaining from their drug of choice)
Teens (pre and post treatment testing)
Military cases
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What is the timing process for hair testing?
  1. The donor goes to the Quest Collection Center to provide a hair sample
  2. The specimen is overnighted to the Quest Diagnostics lab by Fed-ex
  3. It will arrive at the lab on the next day
  4. If results are negative, the results are typically received the day after receipt by the lab
  5. If the lab detects non-negative results, they will take several more days to finalize. During this time, the lab (Medical Review Officer) will attempt to talk to the donor. This is a check to see if any of the drug(s) they found are there by legal prescription. If the donor can provide a prescription number, the test results will not reflect that drug
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Can you tell exactly when the donor used drugs?
The hair testing process will detect drugs used over the past 90 days (+/- due to hair growth speed). It will not pinpoint exact drug use history.
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