Background image

Fingernail Resources

Fingernail Resources

To view the Fingernail Testing Panels and Collection Instructions, click here.

Fingernail Videos

Watch Video

CCDG Presentation

Watch Video

Demethylated Metabolites of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone in Hair and Nail Specimens by Amy Alexander

Watch Video

Direct Alcohol Biomarkers – EtG and PEth Webinar

Watch Video

Direct Biomarkers of Alcohol Use by Dr. Adam Negrusz

Watch Video

Fingernail Collection Training Video

Watch Video

Follow a Fingernail Specimen Through the Lab by Joseph Jones

Watch Video

Following a Fingernail Specimen Through the Laboratory

Watch Video

Long-term Biomarkers for monitoring DUI/OWI offenders

Watch Video

Marijuana in Hair & Fingernail Webinar

Watch Video

Methamphetamine and Amphetamine in Matching Nail and Hair Samples by Dr. Irene Shu

Watch Video

The Future of Hair Testing

Watch Video

USDTL Fingernail Testing FAQ

Watch Video

Wisconsin Counties Use Long-Term Alcohol Biomarker Testing

View All Videos


Fingernail Infographics

View All Infographics


USDTL Fingernail Test In the News

View All USDTL Tests In the News


Fingernail Articles

View All Articles 


USDTL Fingernail Research

View All USDTL Research


Fingernail Poster Presentations

View All Poster Presentations


Fingernail Slide Presentations


THC in Hair


Fingernail Drug Testing For Alcohol And Substances of Abuse

View All Slide Presentations


Fingernail Announcements

Update to Fingernail Collection

06-Oct-2016

To help you have the best possible solutions that science can offer, we are consistently evaluating our processes to keep them ahead of the curve. As science progresses, so do our capabilities. Because of such progress, we have some important updates to the fingernail collection process.

Report Change Notification

18-Apr-2016

Effective July 18, 2016, USDTL will be implementing a new way of reporting quantitative results. In order to satisfy accreditation requirement, the concentrations of drugs exceeding the Upper Limit of Quantification (ULOQ) for any given drug will be reported as > ULOQ (greater than ULOQ). The ULOQ will be provided.

Quantity Not Sufficient (QNS) Explained

02-Mar-2016

Quantity Not Sufficient (QNS) is a result of not having a sufficient quantity (volume) of specimen to test for the panels ordered. The amount of specimen required for collection is directly related to the amount of specimen needed to screen and confirm for the panels we offer. The initial screening uses a portion of the original specimen and the confirmation testing uses another portion of the original specimen. To forensically confirm positives, means running a new test, with a new portion of the original specimen, using a different analytical technique.

USDTL is now ISO/IEC 17025 Accredited

22-Sep-2015

We are proud to announce that we are the first laboratory in the world to be ISO/IEC 17025 accredited for drug and alcohol testing in umbilical cord, fingernail, and toenail specimens. On September 4, 2015, USDTL attained ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation showing full compliance with the international testing standards. We have received our accreditation from ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board, demonstrating technical competence in the field of forensic testing. The scope of our ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation encompasses all specimen types and methods of analysis utilized in our laboratory.

Updated Policy Regarding Insufficient Specimen Volumes Updated Collection Instructions

01-Apr-2015

It is our first priority to deliver testing results that provide the most valuable information possible for your substance abuse testing needs. To better accomplish this duty to our clients, we are updating our policy concerning specimens that do not have sufficient volume for both preliminary testing and confirmation. Effective April 1, 2015, confirmatory tests that cannot be completed due to insufficient specimen volume will be canceled on an individual drug class and/or analyte basis. We will report confirmation results for each test for which there is sufficient volume of specimen available, giving you access to more information.

Changes to Fingernail Collection Procedures

27-Feb-2015

It is USDTL's mission to use the best science available to provide cutting edge tools for the detection of alcohol and substances of abuse. To better accomplish our mission, we are updating our collection procedures for fingernail specimens. Effective March 1, 2015, cosmetic treatments of any kind must be removed from fingernail specimens prior to being submitted to USDTL for testing. Specimens received with cosmetic treatments still applied to them will be rejected and will not be processed. Cosmetic treatments include artificial acrylic, gel or silk overlays; nail polish; basecoats; topcoats; hardeners; and any application to the nail that is not the natural nail material. When removing fingernail polish prior to collection, a non-ethanol based polish remover should be used.

USDTL Develops Assay to Detect Zolpidem (Ambien®) in Fingernails and Hair

01-Oct-2014

Des Plaines, IL - United States Drug Testing Laboratory, Inc. (USDTL), a forensic laboratory specializing in drug and alcohol testing using advanced specimens, has released a new assay to detect zolpidem (Ambien®) use in fingernail and hair specimens. Previously available only in urine and oral-fluid specimens, zolpidem testing in fingernails and hair offers forensic drug testing professionals new, powerful tools to meet their drug testing needs.

View All Announcements


Fingernail FAQs

*Click the green and white plus sign beside each question to view the answer.

Can a hair test be manipulated by the donor?

Yes. Bleaching, perming, dyeing and straightening can affect the outcome of a hair test. Cosmetically treated hair should not be collected.

Can a nail test be used to prove that a previously taken hair test was inaccurate?

No, the result of any second collected specimen has absolutely no bearing on the validity of the result of any first collected specimen because you have no idea what the donor did between time A and time B.

Can I use the reported value (the number) from a hair, nail, meconium, umbilical cord tissue, or urine test to determine how much or how often someone is using a drug (either prescription of illicit)?

No. These specimen types act as reservoir, where drugs and their metabolites may accumulate and/or degrade over time. When testing any reservoir matrix, it is impractical to back-track to determine time, dosage, or frequency. There are too many variables involved. The reported values (the numbers) have no therapeutic or clinical value. You cannot use the number to estimate how much the donor used or to what extent the donor was exposed.

Can someone test positive in fingernail because of passive or environmental exposure?

Yes, environmental exposure versus ingestion must be resolved when interpreting drug tests using fingernails.

Can the drug test from a maternal specimen (such as maternal hair, nail or urine) differ from the result from a neonatal specimen such as neonatal urine, meconium or umbilical cord tissue?

Yes, the results can be different. Each specimen type has its own advantages, disadvantages, threshold to positivity, and detection time window. One test does not refute the other. The test results are cumulative. For instance, if the maternal urine is positive for cocaine and newborn meconium is positive for methamphetamine, the results do not rule each other out. The appropriate interpretation is that the mother consumed both cocaine and methamphetamine.

Can the reported quantitation of drug or metabolite in hair, nail, meconium, umbilical cord, or urine be used to determine the timing of the drug use, how often the donor uses the drug, or the extent of the donor’s drug use?

No, when testing a reservoir specimen type, a specimen type where analytes tend to accumulate, you may not backtrack to determine time, dosage, or frequency. The result is positive or negative for the appropriate detection window associated with the specimen type.

Does the sample need to be frozen?

No, the sample may be shipped ambient.

Have results been used in court cases?

Yes, the analysis of a number of tissue types for the presence of drugs of abuse has been used in every state for decades. Specifically, our umbilical cord testing has been used to provide evidence of drug use by the mother in numerous states. Additionally, the detection of drug in umbilical cord was used as evidence of maternal drug consumption in a murder case in South Carolina and that interpretation was upheld on appeal to the SC Supreme Court.

How do drugs get into nails?

Drugs are distributed via the blood supply to the nail cells and the nail bed. Nails grow not only in length but in thickness as well. As the nail grows in thickness, it creates layers of drug history.

How much fingernail needs to be collected?

The optimum amount of nail clippings needed is 100 milligrams. If trimming all 10 fingernails, each clipping must be at least 2 millimeters to 3 millimeters long.

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.

Will one-time drug use be detected in Fingernail Testing? How many times would they have to use drugs for it to be detected in nails?

Single doses do not guarantee a positive result. The number of doses required to generate a positive result is highly variable between donors.

View All FAQs


Contact USDTL

1.800.235.2367