Forensic Drug Testing Lab
Hair Drug Testing
Recently, hair testing has come to be seen as a powerful tool for the detection of drug and alcohol abuse. Hair provides a long-term history of drug and alcohol abuse by trapping biomarkers in the fibers of the growing hair strand. When collected close to the scalp, hair can provide up to a 3 month history of alcohol and drug abuse. Drug and alcohol biomarkers can appear in scalp hair 1-7 days after the last use. Hair offers a sample that is simple to collect, somewhat difficult to adulterate, and easy to ship. A 1.5 inch sample of about 200 strands of hair (about the size of a #2 pencil) closest to the scalp will give 100mg of hair, the ideal sample for screening and confirmation. For EtG, add-ons and/or tests above 10-panel, 150mg of specimen is recommended. We recommend weighing the specimen on a jeweler's scale. If scalp hair is not available, an equal amount of body hair may be collected. When referring to head hair, we are referring to scalp hair only. Body hair refers to all other types of hair (facial, axillary, etc).
Click here to view our hair collection instruction slides.
Click here to download the fingernail and hair drug panels.
Click here to view the Hair Resources page.
- 17 Panel
- 16 Panel
- 15 Panel
- 14 Panel
- 12 Panel
- 10 Panel
*Click the green and white plus sign beside each drug class to view the substances within each class.
A. Once verified, mark the Picture ID Verified box on the Custody and Control Form.
B. Record the donor’s ID number. This may be the Social Security number, Driver’s License number, Medical Record number, Employee number or any other number of your facilities choosing.
C. Record the donor’s name (optional).
D. Mark the specimen matrix and location.
E. Mark the appropriate reason for testing.
F. Mark the panel ordered for this collection.
G. Record the Collection Site Facility information if it is different than the Account Information at the top of the form.
The ideal site for collection is at the top of the back of the head, called the crown or vertex area. Collector should use gloves throughout the collection.
For Hair Longer than 1.5 inches:
A. Isolate a section of hair above the area to be sampled, and secure it with a hair clip. Using a rat-tail comb, select a section of hair to be clipped with cutting shears at scalp level. If the client has thin hair, multiple sites may be used.
B. Clip the hair and place it on the envelope near the printed ruler with the root end to the left. Using the ruler, cut the hair to 1.5 inches in length, keeping the 1.5 inches closest to the root end. Discard the rest of the hair. Place the hair in the foil tray. Continue collection until you have 100mg/150mg of specimen. If you are not using a gem scale to weigh the specimen (recommended), you do not need to trim the hair to 1.5". Instead, fold the foil in half and place the root end of the untrimmed hair toward the end of the foil marked root end.
For Hair Shorter than 1.5 inches:
C. Collect smaller amounts of hair from multiple sites around the head. Place the hair in the foil tray. Continue collection until you have 100mg/150mg of specimen.
By Phone: 1.800.235.2367
Business Hours (CST)
Monday 6am - 8pm
Tuesday 6am - 8pm
Wednesday 6am - 8pm
Thursday 6am - 8pm
Friday 6am - 8pm
Panel Name: HairTesting
Panel Description: Hair Testing Drug Panel
Collection Container: Foil in Secure Envelope
Sample Amount: 100 mg = 200 strands @ 1.5 inches (We recommend weighing the specimen on a jeweler's scale.)
Storage Conditions: Room Temperature
Transport Conditions: Ambient
Method: Initial screening test with confirmation of presumptive positives
Turn-Around Time: 1 day for negatives / 2-3 days for positives
- White Papers
Can a hair test be manipulated by the donor?
Can a hair test be used to prove that a previously taken urine test was inaccurate?
Can a hair test determine how much or how often someone is using a drug?
Can someone test positive in hair because of passive or environmental exposure?
Does race make a difference in hair testing results?
How long can drugs be detected in body hair?
How long can drugs be detected in head hair?
If the quantity of drug or alcohol metabolite detected is high, could that be an indication that the donor (1) was consuming a large amount, (2) was using recently, or (3) was using frequently?
There are too many variables for anyone to know time of use, dosage, or frequency from the result(s) of a drug test. Reservoir matrices such as hair, fingernail, umbilical cord, and meconium continuously collect drug and alcohol biomarkers. This makes it difficult to determine specific details of use. Because the biomarker is collected over a period of time, the results represent total accumulation that cannot be pin-pointed to specific times/dates/dosages, etc.
Q: Why are both ethyl sulfate (EtS) and ethyl glucuronide (EtG) included in urine testing for alcohol use, but only EtG in fingernail or hair testing?
A: For urine testing, it is standard practice in the field of toxicology to include both EtS and EtG, because EtG is subject to bacterial production and degradation if a urine sample is contaminated (e.g. when the donor has a urinary tract infection). EtS is not subject to bacterial production or degradation, and provides a second, more reliable alcohol biomarker in these urine contamination scenarios. Other specimens types, such as fingernails and hair, do not have this issue, so only EtG is measured in those sample types.
What does a positive hair test result mean?
Why do we test for EtG in hair and not FAEE?
Why was one matrix positive and another negative on the same donor?
There are several explanations for this.
- Different sample matrices have different detection time frames. The result of any second collected specimen has no bearing on the validity of a first collected specimen. For example, a hair sample with a three month window of detection might test positive for a particular substance, while a urine sample from the same donor, with a 2-3 day window of detection, might test negative. In this case, the donor has used that substance within the past three months, but may not have used it within the most recent three days.
- The result of any second collected specimen has no bearing on the validity of a first collected specimen. Therefore, a negative result observed for the umbilical cord does not refute a positive result observed on the maternal urine specimen and the reverse is true as well. There are many legitimate reasons for discrepant urine and umbilical cord results.
- The urine specimen was a screen only result and was not confirmed using an appropriate mass spectrometric method. The screen only urine result is a clinically valid result, however, without an appropriate mass spectrometric confirmation, the urine result has no value in a forensic proceeding.
- Lastly, some placentas can prevent some compounds from reaching the fetus. There are documented cases of maternal ingestion without in utero exposure.
Annotated Bibliography for EtG in hair 20-Mar-2014