US Drug Test Centers Blog/News

The Hair Follicle Drug Test: Myth Vs. Fact

Posted: Sep 18 2019

By: Kolleen Harkson

The hair follicle drug test is becoming more common for drug testing. As with most things on the internet, though, there is misinformation surrounding hair drug testing. We're going to separate fact from fiction.

The Benefits of Hair Follicle Drug Testing

Before we get to common misconceptions about hair follicle drug testing, let's talk about a few benefits that it offers.

Hair Follicle Drug Testing is Accurate

Because hair follicle drug tests must be conducted by drug testing professionals, and also due to the nature of the test, they're incredibly difficult to cheat — if it's at all possible. Hair samples are incredibly reliable, annd there's on opportunity for the individual providing the sample to tamper with it in any way.

On the flip side, an individual can skew the results of a urine drug test by drinking excessive amounts of water in an attempt to produce a dilute sample. They can also provide synthetic urine or urine collected from another individual.

It Has a Longer Detecting Window

While urine drug testing can typically look back a week, hair follicle drug tests have a detection window of 90 days. Depending on the length of the hair collected, it can even go back as far as a year. It's a far better indicator of long-term, patterened drug use, as opposed to only recent drug activity.

For these reasons, many employers are beginning to opt for hair follicle drug tests to maintain a drug-free workplace environment.

Now that we've covered a couple of the main benefits, let's go into more detail and clear up a few common misconceptions about hair drug testing. (Psst! If you need drug and alcohol screening, order a hair drug test with US Drug Test Centers online.)

5 Common Myths About the Hair Follicle Drug Test Debunked

Myth: You can avoid getting tested by shaving your head.

Fact: Your body hair can be used instead.

Sometimes, individuals think they're off the hook if they don’t have head hair. However, hair follicle drug testing can be conducted using the hair on your body — most commonly leg and arm hair. You would need to have absolutely no hair at all in order to make a hair follicle drug test impossible to conduct.

People sometimes think that having short hair will make it impossible to get tested, but only two inches are needed. (However, the longer the hair sample collected, the longer the detection window.)

Also important to note is that because employers mainly want to know about the most recent drug use, the drug test specialist will obtain a hair sample as close to the scalp as possible. This allows them to screen the newest hair.

man getting a haircit

Myth: There are special products that will "cleanse" your hair of substances.

Fact: There is no proven way to cheat a hair follicle drug test using hair products.

Special hair products on the market — like shampoos — will claim to help you pass a drug test by cleansing your hair and hair follicles of any substances you've used.

However, this claim is 100% false.

It helps to understand how this type of drug testing works in the first place.

When you ingest a substance, it eventually hits your bloodstream. Once that happens, it travels to every part of your body, and that includes your hair. It becomes embedded in the hair, and once that happens, it stays put for a very long time.

No shampoo — or other hair product, for that matter — can undo this. You can't wash or cleanse the drugs in your hair away. Once the substance becomes embedded, it stays there for a long period of time.

Myth: You Can Easily Use Hair Collected From a Brush

Fact: You Can, But the Results Won't Be Conclusive

Parents will sometimes request that we test hair from their teenagers' brush, to screen for drugs. While we can do this, it's not the most accurate approach, nor can the results really be used.

hair brush, dryer, comb

The problem is that it's impossible to attribute the sample to any specific person. We also cannot determine the time frame of the test. It's completely different from obtaining a sample directly from the individual. For this reason, we refer to the individual as an "anonymous donor."

Please also note that in the case of court-ordered drug testing, the results collected from drug testing an anonymous donor are not legally defensible.

So, testing hair from a brush (or anywhere else) is possible, but it doesn't really give you answers.

Myth: Secondhand Smoke Can Cause You to Fail a Hair Drug Test

Fact: You Likely Won't Ever Inhale Enough for It to Show Up on a Drug Test

Can you fail a drug test from secondhand smoke? If you've been around drug users without actually using any yourself, rest assured you will very likely pass a hair follicle drug test — or any other drug test, for that matter.

Secondhand smoke involves something called "passive exposure." This means, using marijuana as an example, you're not actually inhaling any amount of THC — the active component in marijuana that gets you high — from the source.

The amount of THC in secondhand smoke is minimal — about 100 times less potent than the amount of THC you get from active exposure. Even in studies where participants were put in confined areas with marijuana smoke, they didn't test positive. You would need to be in a very tight space with extremely excessive amounts of marijuana smoke for it to show up on a drug test.

All of this means that if you have to take a hair follicle drug test after being around marijuana smokers, THC likely won't show up on your results.

Myth: Hair Follicle Drug Testing Indicates Current Impairment

Fact: The Detection Window Starts at Seven Days Back

While it's an obvious benefit that hair drug testing has such a long lookback period, one drawback is that it can't detect current impairment. Furthermore, its detection window starts about seven days back.

This is because it takes roughly one week for substances to become embedded in the hair. This leaves urine testing and breath alcohol testing the best options to detect current impairment.

pint of beerHowever, while hair drug tests can't tell if a person is currently or was very recently under the influence, as we mentioned earlier, they're ideal for showing patterned, long-term use of substances. This is something other types of drug testing can't do.

If you're interested in hair follicle drug testing or learning more about our drug test panels, contact US Drug Test Centers today or schedule an appointment online. If you don't see the exact panel you want on our website, ask us about customizing a panel that better meets your needs. Order a hair follicle drug test online today!


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