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Hair Follicle Testing


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No two words will strike more fear into the hearts of recreational drug users than "Hair Screen." Hair follicle testing (or hair screening) has exploded in popularity the past few years. The basic gist of the procedure is to detect drugs and other substances taken by a person, using samples of hair taken from that person. This test can be used to detect specific drugs, and it is the most accurate among all tests used for detecting substance abuse, especially in low level users.

The standard five-panel hair follicle test can accurately detect Cocaine (Cocaine & Benzoylecgonine), Marijuana, Opiates (Codeine, Morphine & 6-Monacteyl Morphine), Methamphetamine (Methamphetamine & Ecstasy), and Phencyclidine (PCP). There is also a ten panel drug test that includes: Amphetamines, Benzodiazepine, Barbiturate, Oxycodone & Methadone. In addition, add-on tests for Tramadol, tricyclic antidepressants and mescaline can be added. And while hair follicle testing for alcohol has not been established as a "Federal Standard" some labs claim to detect EtG in hair follicles, as well.

The procedure of hair follicle drug testing involves the use of enzyme-immunoassay, which is nothing but a method to measure the traces of drug in the hair follicles. The drug molecules that are adsorbed by the bloodstream, (the metabolites that aren't eliminated through urine/feces, sweat,etc) get deposited in the hair follicles. Similar to how food is broken down in the body to produce nutrients, and the remainder eliminated or stored as fat, the molecules of drugs are also broken down into its metabolites, which are adsorbed by the blood. Once these metabolites enter the cells of the hair follicle, they remain trapped in the hair shaft, making it possible to detect the presence of the drug by analyzing the hair sample.

The approximate time covered by the test is close to 90 days. The shortest time period that can be accurately evaluated is one-month. While collecting the hair samples for testing, hair is cut very close to the scalp at a certified lab (although home appointments can be arranged depending on your circumstances). For body hair, the time covered is 12 months. So if you're thinking of shaving your head prior to a hair screen, you may want to consider a bikini wax first!

For the affected hair to grow above the scalp, it takes about a week. Thus, hair follicle testing can successfully detect the presence of a drug, 7-10 days AFTER its consumption. That said, hair follicle drug testing is not very successful when it comes to determining the exact day or week when the drug was consumed. This is due to the difference in hair growth rates in individuals, and also the limitations of the test.

Approximately 60 milligrams of hair is required (around 100-120 strands of hair). For people with sparse hair on the head, hair can be collected from different locations on the head. For people with no hair, the test is conducted with hair collected from other parts of the body, including eyelashes, if necessary. No eyelashes!?! They'll cut your fingernails/toenails and the results will be just as accurate.

The testing procedure of hair screening involves a two-tier process. The first step involves screening a part of the sample using Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA), which is an effective method for testing the presence of drugs. The second step is to confirm the result by screening the remaining part of the collected sample, using either of two methods.

Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS)

Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry/ mass spectrometry (GC/MS/MS)

As far as I know, the use of any chemical treatments on the hair have no effect on the test results. This includes bleaching, dying, home remedies to strip the hair, commercial toxin-wash shampoos, etc. However, one caveat regarding the use of bleach/shampoos to rid the hair of evidence, is that the Federal mandated five-panel test is the hardest one to pass. If you're having an alcohol test, or a ten panel to test for Tramadol - etc. and have enough notice, by all means, try what you must!! Platinum blonde may be the best look you never knew!!


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