Hair follicle testing is one of the most effective ways to detect people's substance use and abuse for up to 90 days prior. This test screens for drugs such as amphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, opioids, and other illicit substances. In addition, it detects misuse of prescription medications.
Nowadays, some workplaces may request a hair follicle test before hiring an applicant or may conduct random testing for their current employees. Employers can also use this drug test to monitor at-risk staff members, those under reasonable suspicion, or alongside self-reporting. As such, many people wonder how they can pass a hair follicle test.
How exactly do drugs enter your hair? How does a hair follicle test work, and how can you pass it? What do your results mean and how accurate are they? Keep reading for all the answers!
How Drugs Enter Your Hair
When drugs enter your body by ingesting, injecting, inhaling, or smoking them, they're absorbed and metabolized in the bloodstream. In effect, the substances travel through the blood carrying the components throughout the body, including to the hair and follicles.
Note that this doesn't just mean the hair on your head. The drug components travel throughout the entire body, including everywhere that hair grows from hair follicles — such as your arms, armpit, legs. As such, hair samples from other parts of your body may contain evidence of substance use.
How a Hair Follicle Test Works
A hair follicle test is a quick, non-invasive drug test. The process starts with a collector plucking hair from the scalp, about 70-80 strands up to 1.5 inches in length, to get a sample with the hair follicles.
For individuals with little to no hair, samples may be taken from other parts of the body like the arms, legs, or underarms. If body hair is used, it should be about the size of a large cotton ball.
Next, the collector follows a specific process of securing, documenting, and shipping the samples to a testing laboratory. These are taken under close supervision, nearly eliminating opportunities for specimen alteration or substitution.
A hair follicle test can be done in a lab or hospital setting. As employers, you may also administer the test using a kit that you can order and then mail to a laboratory. Still, others may allow a self-administered test which will have a direct supervisor during the testing process.
How to Pass a Hair Follicle Test
There are many myths surrounding how to "beat" hair follicle tests. This includes washing or dyeing your hair, using special styling products to cleanse the hair follicles, and shaving your head.
As with all drug screening, attempting to defraud the test is not a wise move. This is especially true for hair follicle tests, as you won't be able to completely remove the drug metabolites from within your hair strand anyway.
Moreover, you put yourself at risk of getting caught and in trouble with the law. For example, while marijuana laws vary from state to state (although it's still illegal at the federal level), the use and abuse of illicit drugs can lead to fines, imprisonment, and other legal actions.
What the Results Mean
A hair follicle test can be negative, positive, or inconclusive. If your results are positive, then this means that the hair follicle drug test picked up illicit substances in your hair sample. If it's negative, your results were clear and you passed.
Lastly, while uncommon, an inconclusive result may indicate improper specimen collection or errors in testing procedures. Ultimately, it may require the test to be repeated.
Is the Hair Follicle Test Accurate?
As we mentioned earlier, the collection and testing of hair specifics follow a particular standard for increased accuracy and effectiveness. During the test, the collected hair is washed and tested for external contamination. But again, because the drug molecules are within the hair, it's almost impossible to change the results of the test.
Another reason why most employers look to hair follicle drug tests to screen their employees is it shows results from a longer back period. While certain substances only remain in the blood or urine for less than a week, drug molecules show up in the hair within seven days after use and stay there for as long as three months.
Similarly, the testing and analysis process is more extensive compared to other types of drug tests. It goes through two tests, the ELISA and the GC/MS, to ensure that specimens are guarded against false-positive results.
The Key Takeaway
The bottom line is this: If you want to pass a hair follicle test, then you shouldn’t be doing drugs. While some products (and people) claim to be able to minimize the risk of detection, you really won't be able to cheat or defraud the test.
You can't remove the drug molecules from your hair strand and follicles. Plus, you're simply putting yourself at risk if you get caught attempting to cheat the drug test.
This is particularly important for individuals who are applying for a job as some employers may require a pre-employment drug test. Similarly, this is applicable for employees of companies who require drug screening for legal or probation reasons, or at random.
If you're an employer looking to conduct drug testing for your workers or you're in need of guidance in developing a drug-free workplace program, US Drug Test Centers can help. With more than 20,000 locations across the country, we make drug testing accessible, convenient, and easy for you.If you're interested in hair follicle drug testing, customized drug test panels, or other drug testing services, US Drug Test Centers can cater to your specific needs. Contact us today to learn more or order your drug test online.