Woman with long black hair

Hair Testing

Hair testing was first adopted by employers as the ‘executive’ level method for employment drug testing. To this day, hair testing has proven its effectiveness and continues to play a vital role in ensuring security and safety within our nation’s workplaces. Hair testing presents many advantages over other types of testing; however, it’s essential to recognize its strengths and limitations. A balanced test methodology approach may best help you accomplish your goals.

US Drug Test Centers is your go-to provider for hair drug testing in all areas of the United States; for both individuals and employers. Same-day service is available with a three- to four-business day turnaround for the results of hair drug testing.

How Does Hair Testing Work?

Hair testing is a quick, non-invasive, and pressure-free experience! No worrying about ‘holding it’ or being able to ‘provide a specimen’ when it’s time for the collection, donors visit one of our thousands of collection sites, check in and complete the collection process. .

When someone uses drugs, the drug gets metabolized or absorbed into the user’s bloodstream. Humans have millions of hair follicles throughout the head and body. Each hair follicle has a blood vessel that feeds the growth of the hair strand. The metabolized drugs, after use, are carried from the blood into the hair follicle. Traces of drugs can then be detected within the length of the hair strand.

Hair testing does require removing more than one strand of hair, and for employment drug testing, hair samples cannot be provided from a brush or another unverifiable source - it must be taken directly from the donor’s head or another area of the body. For the analysis to be effective, the collector will obtain, under direct observation, a 100-milligram sample of hair (approximately 90 to 120 strands) cut with scissors, preferably at the crown of the head. The hair strands are cut from as close to the scalp as possible. The collector can remove hairs from different spots on your head to avoid creating a bald spot.

For donors with very little or no head hair, the collector might use body hair, as deemed appropriate, for the test instead.

The collector will then secure the hair-strand sample in foil, completes the chain of custody documentation process, and will prepare the specimen for shipment to a testing laboratory. Since hair samples are obtained under direct observation, in full view of the collector, the process nearly eliminates the likelihood of sample adulteration or specimen substitution.

A hair drug test is nearly impossible to cheat. Even if a donor uses certain shampoos or products that claim to cleanse hair follicles and help you ‘beat the test,’ these products are unlikely to remove the drug metabolites from within the hair strand. As a funny twist to cheating attempts, hair washing helps remove external contaminants, benefiting the hair testing process. Because the sample is often collected in person, it would be incredibly complicated to substitute a hair sample.

Superior Detection Time

When employers consider the different employment drug test methods available, they should focus on what they are trying to accomplish. Is the goal to prevent drug users from entering your workplace, are you trying to detect drug users so you can remove them from your workplace or offer them help with a drug or alcohol problem, or both? Choosing the right test method to meet your goals can be a critical decision.

Employment drug testing methods are not all the same. They each have different detection levels (laboratory cutoff levels) and different detection times - how long after drug use has stopped can the substance be detected in a sample. The window of detection is critical. It includes how soon after someone uses a drug and how long after they stop using can the drug be found.

Hair testing provides the most prolonged detection period when screening for illicit drug use or prescription medication misuse compared to that of urine, blood, sweat, or oral fluid (saliva). Testing via hair will be able to detect a pattern of repeated drug use from approximately a week after the last use up to several months since last use (one week to 90+ days).

chart of detection times for various types of drug testing samples

Benefits of Employee Drug Testing via Hair

  • Hair testing has the highest "fear factor" for drug users as it is nearly impossible to prepare for it.
  • Superior detection times for drug use - hair testing can detect drug use typically up to 90 days!
  • It is nearly impossible for drug users to "prepare for" or to cheat a hair test.
  • The hair specimen collection process is quick, noninvasive and no-pressure experience.
  • Hair testing provides more accurate results since it is impossible to substitute a hair specimen during the observed collection process, unlike that of urine testing.

Hair Testing Shortfalls

  • Hair specimen testing may not be useful for monitoring compliance regularly because it cannot discriminate between recent drug use and use that occured months earlier.
  • Popular for detecting long-term drug use, hair testing should not be utilized to detect recent drug use, as this method is unable to detect single-use within the last three to seven days.
  • Hair testing is slightly more expensive than other testing methods.
  • There is no "instant" or Point-of-Collection (POCT) option available for hair testing. All hair tests require laboratory analysis.
  • The turnaround time for laboratory testing results is longer due to the extensive analysis process.

Available Hair Testing Panels

Hair drug testing is available from US Drug Test Centers with laboratory testing from Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, US Drug Testing Labs, and Psychemedics. Multiple hair drug testing panels are available, including:

Hair Drug Test 5 Panel - Amphetamines (methamphetamine, ecstasy, MDMA, and MDA), cocaine, opiates (codeine, morphine, and heroin), phencyclidine (PCP), and marijuana.

Hair Drug Test 5 Panel plus Expanded Opiates and Oxy - Amphetamines, cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), marijuana, and opiates (codeine, morphine, heroin, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone).

Hair Drug Test 9 Panel - Cocaine, marijuana, phencyclidine (PCP), amphetamines, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, methadone, propoxyphene, and opiates (including codeine, morphine, heroin, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone).

Hair Drug Test 12 Panel - Cocaine, marijuana, phencyclidine (PCP), amphetamines, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, methadone, propoxyphene, and opiates (including codeine, morphine, heroin, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone), meperidine, tramadol, and oxycodone.

Hair Drug Test 14 Panel - Cocaine, Marijuana (THC, cannabinoids), Phencyclidine (PCP u2013 angel dust), Amphetamines (including methamphetamines, also known as crystal meth), Opiates (including heroin, codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, Oxycodone), Propoxyphene, Methadone, Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax), Barbiturates, Meperidine, Tramadol, Oxycodone, Fentanyl, and Sufentanyl.

Hair follicle testing is flexible in drug panels and can also test for EtG alcohol in hair.

Legality of Employee Hair Testing

The laboratory results from hair testing have been routinely admitted in both state and federal courts, as well as arbitrations and agency hearings; and are routinely upheld. Some court systems use hair analysis as part of their probation, parole, and diversionary programs.

Hair testing is not currently approved for Federal/Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing programs. Some states prohibit hair testing for employee drug testing.

Employers should consider state and Federal laws when implementing hair testing programs. Compliance experts at US Drug Test Centers can help you determine the legality of any drug testing methods in your state.

Employers throughout the United States are now implementing hair testing programs due to the benefits this alternative specimen offers. Order yours online today or call 866-566-0261.

Other Uses for Hair Testing

Many attorneys are ordering hair follicle drug tests for court-ordered drug testing, child custody, drug testing, and divorce drug testing. Individuals often order hair follicle testing for personal reasons, such as when parents want to test their teenage children.

When this is the case, parents usually ask if hair collected from a brush can be used. The answer is yes, but the test will be reported as having an "anonymous" donor. It’s not possible to attribute the sample to any specific person, and we cannot determine the time frame of the test, so the test result is not legally defensible.

Please note that not all of our testing centers are available for "anonymous" donor hair testing. This type of testing is only performed at our specialty laboratories.

Hair Testing for Individuals

At US Drug Test Centers, we work with individuals, court systems, child protection agencies, and attorneys for hair testing.

Donors should have head hair to be able to have a hair drug test performed. If you do not have head hair, many of our facilities will take body hair from the arms or legs. Our hair testing is offered through Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp. Quest facilities will cut head hair or body hair. LabCorp facilities will only cut head hair. Our out-of-network third-party facilities will typically collect either head hair or body hair. Hair testing for EtG alcohol is tested for at our specialty laboratories.

US Drug Test Centers can provide hair follicle drug testing for employers and individuals. Call 866-566-0261 today for immediate service.