A hair follicle drug test, also known as a hair drug test, screens for illicit drug use and misuse of medication. A small amount of hair is removed using scissors, goes in for analysis, and looks to see what drugs may be present over the past 90 days. Find out more about this test and what to expect.
The hair follicle test might take place in a lab or hospital setting. The workplace may perform a test using a kit that’s been mailed in from a lab. At-home tests are also on the market. If your workplace mandates you take the test, you’ll be required to be supervised during testing. You may wash your hair, dye it, or use styling products without affecting accuracy of the test. After you confirm the identifying information, a collector will cut between 100 and 120 hairs from the crown of your head. This is collected to avoid creating a bald spot. If you have little to no hair on your head, the collector might use body hair for the test, instead.
When you think about the results, there are three ways you can review them:
- A negative result is returned within 24 hours of hair removal. The ELISA test is used for screening and determines a negative outcome. This means you have not used drugs over the past 90 days.
- A positive drug test will be confirmed within 72 hours. All nonnegative tests undergo a second test call gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). It confirms a positive test result and identifies specific drugs used.
- An inconclusive result is not common when testing procedures are followed. Improper collection may result in the test being rejected completely.
The lab who took the results for testing will deliver them to whomever ordered them. This will be confidential and you will need to sign a release before results are passed on to your workplace.
Hair Follicles vs. Urine Test
The main difference between a hair follicle drug test and urine drug test is the window of detection. A urine drug test is used for drug use over three days preceding the test. A hair follicle drug test is the only drug test that can detect repeated use up to 90 days prior to the test. The sweat and sebum present on the scalp may play a role in drug presence in existing strands of hair.
The hair follicle drug tests may identify drug use up to 90 days prior to the test date. Hair follicle tests may not work for recent drug use. It may take five to seven days for drugs to be identifiable through a hair follicle test. Urine drug tests are used to detect recent drug use. Medications may interfere and lead to a false-positive test result. Be sure to speak with a doctor prior to taking the test.
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