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. 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).
D/L Methamphetamine Isomer testing is available upon request for specimens that test positive for methamphetamine.
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*Click the green and white plus sign beside each drug class to view the substances within each class.
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 screen and confirmation
Turnaround Time: Generally, the standard turnaround time for reporting negative screening test results is the next business day, with an additional 1-2 business days for specimens that require confirmatory testing. Turnaround time begins from receipt of the valid specimen –accompanied by a properly documented valid order– into the laboratory. Some tests require additional time to process and will fall outside the standard turnaround time window.
- White Papers
Hair Ethyl Glucuronide: Uses and Implications 01-Apr-2013
On The Level 01-Aug-2017
Quantity Not Sufficient 11-Nov-2016
The Long Game 02-Feb-2015
The Stability of Drugs in Hair 01-Oct-2012
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 second test of a different specimen type be used to prove that a previously taken test was inaccurate?
No. The results of any second collected specimen have absolutely no bearing on the validity of the results of the first collected specimen. Furthermore, each matrix has its own advantages, disadvantages and limits of interpretation.
Can a hair test determine how much or how often someone is using a drug?
No. Hair is a reservoir matrix, where drugs can collect and/or degrade over time. When testing any reservoir matrix, you are unable to back-track and determine time, dosage or frequency because there are simply too many variables involved.
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 hair because of passive or environmental exposure?
Yes, drugs are incorporated into hair by three major routes: environmental exposure, sweat and sebum from the scalp and blood flow through the follicle. Environmental exposure however will only generate a positive for the parent drug. Example: methamphetamine only. The other two mechanisms lay down drug and drug metabolites. Example: amphetamine/methamphetamine positive.
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 race make a difference in hair testing results?
Hair color, not race, is one of the most important variables in determining the quantity of drug found in the hair. Dark hair binds drug tighter than light hair.
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 long can drugs be detected in body hair?
Body hair has a different growth cycle compared to head hair. Body hair may go dormant and remain in place up to one year. A positive result reflects exposure up to 12 months.
How long can drugs be detected in head hair?
Once a drug is incorporated into hair, it begins to slowly leach out due to normal daily hygiene and exposure to the elements. Most drugs have disappeared by three months. Furthermore, the laboratory only analyzes the first 1.5 inches (3.9 centimeters) nearest the scalp. Hair grows at an average rate of 0.5 inches per month.
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?
The only interpretation that can come from a positive hair test is that the individual used or was exposed to drug during the three months prior to collection.
Why do we test for EtG in hair and not FAEE?
FAEE is less sensitive and can produce false positives. Hairspray and other hair products can produce FAEEs in hair. There is no enzyme in our hair that can create ETG from those products.
Annotated Bibliography for EtG in hair 20-Mar-2014