Frequently Asked Questions About Hair Drug Testing

Drug addiction remains to be one of the most common public health issues that world governments are continuously trying to eliminate from society. One of the best strategies to prevent drug abuse and addiction is drug testing. In this article, we will look into hair drug testing, and answer some of the biggest questions related to this kind of drug testing method.

The Global Drug Abuse Problem

For years, there has been a variety of substances that some people have been hooked with. Some of the most popular drugs of choice are the following:


This is one of the most common illicit substances in the world today. Using marijuana has various effects, which include:

  • Short-term memory and learning
  • Inability to focus
  • Lacks coordination

Prescription and Over-The-Counter Medications

These drugs were developed with the intention of relieving pain in patients suffering from particular medical conditions. Although they have been proven to help patients deal with pain, long-term use of these prescription medications can develop into addiction.

Anabolic Steroids

These substances have become notorious because they are used by athletes to increase their strength and performance. However, since they are synthetically made substances, long-term use can cause liver and kidney damage, high blood pressure, enlarged heart, and changes in blood cholesterol, all of which can lead to stroke or heart failure.


Cocaine use can lead to extreme paranoia and other medical consequences such as heart and respiratory collapse.

MDMA (Ecstasy)

This party drug is used by young adults while they are at raves, music festivals or concerts. Some drug dealers would mix other substances with MDMA to increase its effect. However, this can make the combination even more lethal.


It is a very potent opioid that produces euphoria and provides the user a sense of relaxation. Long-term use of this substance can alter brain function, and could lead to dependence.

Drug Testing

The only way to determine the presence of any drug and its metabolites in the body is through drug testing. There are several methods of drug testing, and these make use of an individual’s bodily samples:

  • Urine
  • Blood
  • Saliva
  • Sweat
  • Hair

The common method of drug testing is using urine since it is inexpensive and non-invasive. Drug testing is conducted using chemical assay to determine its reaction to the body.

hairconfirm hair drug testing frequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you ready to earn more about hair drug testing? Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this particular drug testing method.

What is a hair drug test?

Hair drug testing was an uncommon drug testing method in the past. However, companies have considered using this type of drug testing because of its accuracy.

Hair drug testing analyzes drugs that can be present within the hair shaft. Unlike other methods of drug testing, hair testing is exceedingly resistant to any form of adulteration. Abstaining from drug use for a few days will not free a user from having a positive result.

Hair drug testing makes use of the state-of-the-art GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS confirmation to measure drug molecules and metabolites that are permanently entrapped within the hair shaft following ingestion. This type of technology offers significantly superior detection ability than other methods of analyzing hair or body fluids.

Who are subject to hair drug testing?

To provide the assurance that an individual is free from any time of illicit drugs, different companies or organizations have started using the hair drug testing method over other conventional drug testing techniques.

What are the drugs that can be detected using hair drug testing?

Many of the commonly abused drugs that can be detected using the urine drug test can also be detected using hair drug testing. These are:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA
  • Phencyclidine
  • MDEA
  • Opiates (including codeine, heroin, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine)

What are the normal ranges of the different drugs that the results should be based on?

Below is a chart that represents the user type determinations:

5-Panel Drug Testing Kit Low Use High Use
Amphetamines 500-2500 pg/ml 7500+ pg/ml
Cocaine 500-2000 pg/ml 10,000+ pg/ml
Marijuana The qualitative amount does not affect the usage
Opiates 300-1000 pg/ml 9,000+ pg/ml
Phencyclidine 300-500 pg/ml 2000+ pg/ml


How many hairs are required for hair drug testing?

Approximately 40-50 strands of hair – cut at least 1.5 inches near the scalp – is needed to be able to perform hair drug testing. This covers at least the past three months of hair growth.

How fast does the hair grow?

The growth of hair may vary from each individual. Normally, hair grows about 0.5 inch in one month.  The standard length should be enough to determine the recent use of any kind of drug.

Which part of the head should the sample be taken?

Using standard screening along with GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS confirmation, a few strands of hair should be snipped just below the crown. This is to ensure that despite taking several strands of hair, the cut should be undetectable.

If the hair sample is long, will the laboratory show a longer period of use of the drug?

No. Only the part 1.5 inches from the scalp is needed to be able to perform the drug test.

If a company requires a historical period of 6 months, can the test still be performed with accuracy?

Yes, this is still possible. However, instead of using just one kit, there would be a need to use two drug testing kits. One test kit will be for the hair sample that is cut 1.5 inches from the scalp, while the other 1.5 inches should be cut from the tip of the hair.

How is hair analysis different from urine analysis?

Despite being the most common drug testing method, urine drug test is not as accurate as hair analysis. Most of the drugs and their metabolites can be excreted from urine within 72 hours after ingestion. In contrast, traces of the drugs are left within hair strands for weeks, months or even years.

How soon can the drug be detected within the hair shaft?

Approximately 5-7 days after ingestion, any type of drug can become evident within the hair shaft.

How accurate is hair drug testing?

Given the fact that it has a wider window of detection, hair drug testing is 5-10 times more accurate than a urine drug test. This only means that a large percentage of drug users who undergo urine drug test may generate a negative drug test just by abstaining for a few days or weeks. This may be one of the reasons why there is a huge population among the workforce who are drug users but seemed to have “passed” the urine drug test.

The advantages of hair analysis include its non-invasive method of collecting the specimen, and the absence of the possibility of adulterating the sample.

Can body hair be used in hair drug testing?

Yes. Hair can be collected from different parts of the body. It will produce the same results. However, the lack of head hair and body hair of an individual does not make hair drug testing possible.

Can hair be collected from a hair brush?

No. Performing a hair drug test must follow the protocol wherein the sample should be taken freshly from the individual. Along with that, extracting hair strands found in a hair brush may not be always from the individual who needs to undergo drug testing.

What is done with the excess hair collected?

All remaining hair is stored in a sample pouch. Negative hair is stored for one month while positive hair is stored for two years.

Will any kind of hair treatment affect the results of a hair drug test?

This is the greatest advantage of hair drug test from all the other drug testing methods. Hair products such as shampoo, conditioner, gel, wax, or mousse will have no significant effect.

Additionally, normal hair washing does help in getting rid of all these hair products. Hair treatments such as bleaching, dyeing, and perming will neither affect the results.

However, severe damage of the protein matrix can significantly affect the results. Severely treated hair can be easily identified from the wash ratios and staining procedure.

Is there a possibility that the result may be affected by environmental contaminants?

In testing a hair sample, extensive chemical washing of the specimen is done, followed by the analysis of the content of the wash. This method is done to ensure that any contamination is ruled out.

Even if the individual being tested accidentally or unintentionally held a certain drug and got it on his hair, the method identifies the drug metabolite and not the original form of the drug. The drug metabolite can only be produced once the drug has been ingested.

To confirm any initial positive test result, GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS confirmation testing is done to eliminate the possibility of having false positives due to external contamination.

Some products claim that they can be useful in getting rid of the presence of any drug within the hair shaft by using detox products. Is this true?

There is no product or external source that can possibly eliminate or wash away any drug metabolite from the hair shaft. The only scheme that’s possible is to completely cut off all the hair and let it grow again, provided that the individual has totally stopped using drugs.

How long should I wait to receive the results?

The turnaround time for hair testing is between 1-2 business days. The shipping label is included in every test kit.

How is the data reported?

All results are reported to a Medical Review Officer, from which any initial tests will be subject to a confirmatory testing.

Is the result of hair drug testing accepted in court?

Hair drug testing has been routinely used in both state and federal courts, as well as part of the probation, parole, and diversionary programs.

Is hair testing included in the SAMHSA guidelines?

Currently, only urine drug testing is the require drug testing method to test employees from the government sector and certain private companies and those who are working at the Department of Transportation as mandated by the SAMHSA guidelines. However, SAMHSA will continue to pursue alternative means in drug testing and further issue revisions so that hair testing can also be included.

How long are positive test results kept on file?

To assure that all pertinent records are safely stored, all laboratory records and test results are kept for a period of five years.

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