While many of us are most familiar with urine drug tests, hair follicle drug testing is widely considered more thorough and reliable. This approach to testing is newer to the industry. It's a common route taken by attorneys who need to schedule court-ordered drug testing, child custody drug testing, and divorce drug testing. Because of the benefits it provides over urine drug testing, it's also becomingly increasingly common amongst employers wanting to maintain a drug-free workplace.
First, let's look at what hair follicle drug testing offers that urine testing can't.
The Many Benefits of Hair Follicle Drug Testing
Whereas urine tests date back approximately three to five days, hair follicle tests can detect drugs and metabolites starting seven days back and up to 90 days prior, depending on the length of the hair specimen. Follicle tests can determine long-term, repetitive drug use, and they're much more difficult to cheat, particularly since the tests are always observed and the detecting window is so much longer.
On the other hand, methods for cheating a urine test make for popular conversations, and negative dilute results — when the urine is too diluted to provide conclusive results — are one downside to consider. These often require further testing to obtain a more reliable urine sample.
Because of the benefits hair follicle drug testing affords, it results in nearly twice the number of positive test results, compared to urine tests.
Worth mentioning is hair drug testing is less invasive than urine testing, as well, and hair from both the head and body (more specifically, the legs and arms) can be used. A common question is if a sample can be taken from a brush. Yes, it can. However, it will be considered an anonymous sample, since it’s not possible to tie it to one specific person, and there's no way to know how old the hair is. In this case, the test result will not be legally defensible. Thus, a specimen directly collected from the person being tested is a requirement.
The Panels Available to You
Another pro of the hair follicle drug test is the wide variety of drug testing panels US Drug Test Centers offers, making it easy to find exactly what you need.
The 5 panel hair follicle test, for instance, looks for amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, PCP, and marijuana. This is the panel most commonly used.
The 9 panel hair follicle drug test additionally screens for benzodiazepines, barbiturates, methadone, and propoxyphene.
14 panel drug tests can detect, in addition to the nine previously listed, meperidine, tramadol, oxycodone, fentanyl, and sufentanil.
A Couple of Disadvantages
While hair testing is mostly foolproof and offers many advantages, there is one specific drawback: it cannot pick up on any single drug use within the last three to seven days, since it takes that long for drugs to be embedded in hair.
Hair drug testing also might not be the best choice for monitoring sobriety over time, since it doesn't know the difference between more recent drug use and drug use that might have occurred a few months prior.
US Drug Test Centers has more than 20,000 collection sites across the country. We test both individuals and employers. If you're interested in hair testing, we can offer same-day testing and a three- to four-day turnaround for results.
If you need to be drug tested, or you're an employer interested in introducing drug testing in your workplace, contact US Drug Test Centers today for more information. We can also assist you with crafting your drug-free workplace policy, managing random drug testing and employee selection, verifying all test results with an MRO, and more.