The True Negative's Complete Guide to Hair Follicle Drug Testing

by The True Negative

Why do employers use hair follicle drug test?
Compared to urine testing, hair follicle drug testing returns twice as many positive tests. This is due to the longer detection window. Hair follicle testing can detect drug use that took place up to 90 days before the test. For employers who are interested in making sure their employees are not consistent drug users, a hair follicle test instead of a urine test makes more sense, since a urine test may catch employers who happen to have recently used drugs but do not consistently use drugs.

I was involved in an accident on the job. Will I be asked to take a hair follicle test?
Most likely not. If your employer wants to understand if drug or alcohol related impairment caused the accident, a hair follicle test would not be the best option since it could pick up drug use from weeks before the accident on the job. Additionally, it typically takes 5-7 days after use for a drug to be detected in hair. A urine test on the other hand typically only picks up more recent drug use depending on how serious of a user the person being tested is.

Do I have to pay for the hair follicle test?
If your workplace asks you to take a hair follicle test, they typically pay for the test. If your workplace is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulation, your employer is required to pay you for the time you spend taking the test.

What takes place during a hair follicle drug test?
You will be asked to go to a collection site such as LabCorp or Quest diagnostics. Typically, the collector will cut off a 100 milligram sample of hair (90-120 strands of hair) as close to the scalp as possible. The hair will then be transported to a lab for testing as soon as possible. If your results are negative, your results will likely be ready sooner (within 48 hours of the test). If your results are positive, expect a delay since additional testing to confirm the positive test will likely take place.

What if I’m bald?
The collector will need a 1.5 inch sample of hair (because head hair grows at a rate of .5 inches a month, 1.5 inches of hair covers a 90 day window). If you do not have enough hair on your head, the collector will use body hair instead.

What if I’m bald and don’t have enough body hair?
If you don’t have hair on any part of your body that’s long enough, then the hair follicle drug test can’t be performed. If the hair follicle test can’t be performed, then you will likely be ineligible for the job since, for employers that drug test, passing the drug test is usually a condition for employment.

Will dyeing my hair prevent detection?
Hair bleaching with hydrogen peroxide is known to help reduce the drug metabolites in hair by about 40-80%. This is because bleaching the hair damages it, which can cause the drug metabolites to leach out of the hair. Bleaching the hair repetitively may make the drug metabolites become undetectable, but bleaching the hair once is unlikely to do so.

Will a detox shampoo prevent detection?
There are many drug testing shampoos on the market. For example, Test Clear sells detox shampoos, including an Aloe Toxin Rid shampoo. Many consider Aloe Toxin Rid shampoos to be the most effective detox method on the market. While we at The True Negative have never tried this product, Test Clear’s Aloe Toxin Rid shampoo has an average rating of 5 starts across 235 reviews.

Instructions for the shampoo are straight forward. 3-10 days before your test:

  1. Wash your hair using regular shampoo
  2. Rinse out
  3. Wash your hair using Aloe Toxin Rid, leaving the Aloe Toxin Rid in your hair for 10-15 minutes
  4. Rinse out with lukewarm water
  5. Do this every day before your test (at least 15 times 3 days before your test)

What drugs can be detected from hair follicle tests?
Most drugs, including alcohol, can be detected with a hair follicle test:
• Cocaine
• Marijuana (THC, cannabinoids)
• Amphetamines (including methamphetamines)
• Basic Opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine)
• Expanded Opiates (hydrocodone, oxycodone)
• PCP (Angel Dust)
• Benzodiazepines (Xanax)
• Methadone
• Barbiturates
• Propoxyphene
• Demerol
• Tramadol
• Fentanyl
• Sufentanil
• Synthetic Marijuana
• Ketamine
• Buprenorphine (Suboxone)
• Zolpidem (Ambien)
• Alcohol

What drugs are typically tested for?
5 panel drug tests are most common and typically test for the following 5 types of drugs
Amphetamines (ecstasy, MDA, MDMA, methamphetamine)
Opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine)

What if I only used drugs once?
It’s possible for hair follicle tests to pick up one-time drug use, but they're really designed to detect consistent usage. It also depends on the drug. For example, cocaine is very potent and can be hard to get out of your system even if used only once within the 90 day window.

Can the test identify exactly when I used a drug?
The test can’t determine the exact date of use but, starting from the scalp, every 1.5 inch of hair accounts for approximately 90 days of use. For example, theoretically, if your hair up to inch 4.5 was tested, it would detect use within the last 270 days (~9 months). However, labs will only test the first 1.5 inches of your hair.

How accurate are these tests?
Hair follicle tests are considered to be very accurate. There is always a possibility that hair could be contaminated on the way to the lab for testing. However, labs will wash the hair before testing it. Labs will typically conduct two different types of tests on the hair for extra measure. If you believe that you received a false positive, you can immediately ask your employer for a re-test.

Can I test positive if secondhand weed smoke got in my hair?
It is extremely unlikely that secondhand weed smoke will cause you to test positive. What ends up in your hair when you use drugs are metabolites, substances produced when your body breaks down the drug. This is what the hair follicle test looks for in your hair. If you were around someone who smoked, the drug would not have broken down in your body. In an interview with The Cannabist, Barry Sample, Ph.D. and Director of Science and Technology for Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions stated “Hair testing detects a pattern of repetitive use and does not detect recent or single (first time) use. Published, peer-reviewed studies to date have not demonstrated the reporting of a hair specimen as positive for marijuana use due to ‘passive’ or ‘incidental’ exposure.”

Have you received a hair follicle test?
Share your experience here

Have an upcoming test and drugs are already in your system?
There are numerous drug detox products on the market from companies such as Test Clear. Test Clear offers a plethora of detox products for urine, hair, saliva, and blood drug tests that have been proven to work.

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