What Is Hair Drug Testing? Accuracy, What To Expect, And How To Prepare For One



  • Also known as hair follicle drug testing, a hair drug test is a screening process that can detect illicit drug use and misuse of prescription medications.
  • Traditionally, a hair drug test should be done in the hospital or a laboratory.
  • If you’re bald or have a condition that causes hair loss, a lab technician may take hair from other parts of your body, including the armpit.

Drug tests are quite common in various situationswhether required by an employer or ordered by a court. While numerous testing methods exist, hair drug testing is quickly becoming the preferred option.  

This article shares everything about hair drug testinghow effective it is, how it works, and what to expect. This article also shares some pointers to prepare yourself if you’re ever required to undergo one.  

Understanding Hair Drug Testing

Also known as hair follicle drug testing, a hair drug test is a screening process that can detect illicit drug use and misuse of prescription medications. Generally, a hair follicle drug test can screen for the following drugs:

Opiates, including codeine and morphine

Traditionally, a hair drug test should be done in the hospital or a laboratory. You can consult hair drug testing providers like Lextox on how the tests are administered. However, there’s also a range of at-home hair drug test kits on the market today. You can buy them at online retailers or pharmacies and have them shipped to laboratories for testing.  

Hair Drug Testing Accuracy And Effectiveness

One of the biggest reasons hair follicle drug tests are now thepreferred choice over traditional tests is their effectiveness and accuracy.  

Generally, collecting and testing hair follicles follow strict standards to ensure the efficiency and accuracy of results. Most labs wash and test collected hairs for contamination to prevent inaccuracies in test results.  

During testing, collected hair undergoes a two-step testing process to ensure accuracy. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), the first test, can deliver positive or negative results within 24 hours. That said, several factors can influence the test and may cause a falsepositive result. For instance, eating foods like hemp seeds or poppy seeds may return a positive result.  

To guard against a falsepositive result from the first process, a second testing method called GC/MS helps confirm a positive result. The second test also allows you to test for specific drug use.  

Furthermore, a hair drug test is tough to cheat. Using hair dyes, shampoos, or other hair styling products won’t easily prevent drug metabolites from being detected.

While hair drug testing does offer higher accuracy and effectiveness, no tests are 100% accurate. Several factors can influence the results. For instance, if a doctor prescribes an opioid painkiller, it will appear on your test. Other factors that can impact the accuracy of a hair drug test include:

Drug quantity consumed
Amount of dark pigment or melanin in your hair (some drugs may strongly bind with melanin, increasing the chances of positive results for dark-haired individuals, but doesn’t necessarily correlate with illicit drug use)
Hair growth rate
How much an individual sweats
Drug compound structure
Strong bleaching and coloring products

Lastly, hair drug testing is known to have the most extended window of detection among drug testing methods. Hair drug tests can screen for drug use up to three months ago. If you used the drug a week ago, hair testing might return a negative result. This is because drug metabolites can take time to find their way to your hair.  

What To Expect During A Hair Drug Test?

During a hair follicle drug test, a small patch of your hair will be removed. It will be collected by a lab technician, typically from an inconspicuous part of your head. The amount of hair taken is no thicker than a finger. It’s often taken close to the scalp and should be at least 1.52 inches long. If you’re bald or have a condition that causes hair loss, a lab technician may take hair from other parts of your body, including the armpit.  

Once enough hair is collected, the lab technician will test the specimen. All you need to do is wait for them to give you the test results and report.  

Preparing For A Hair Drug Test: 5 Tips To Consider

Whether you’re applying for a job that requires drug testing or the court ordered you to take one, there are certain things you should do to prepare for the procedure and pass the test. Here are some tips to help you prepare for a drug test.  

1. Understand The Test

One of the best ways to prepare for any drug testing method is to know the basics of the test. This article already provided a basic breakdown of hair drug testing, but you want to learn more about it in detail. Make sure to scour the internet for deeper insights and learn everything you can about it.  

2. Abstain From Drug Use

To pass a hair drug test, you should abstain from drug use for at least three months before testing. If you’re using prescription drugs, you should immediately notify your employer or laboratory technician to prevent misunderstandings.  

3. Avoid False ‘Online Tips’  

As hair drug tests become more sophisticated, strategies that once worked may no longer be effective. For instance, consuming high amounts of poppy seeds may no longer cause falsepositive results.

As mentioned, hair drug tests have two-step testing to guard against falsepositive results. Don’t waste money on miracle detoxifiers or try to use heavy hair treatments. Even if these techniques work, your employer or the court may ask for a different test that can provide more accurate results.  

And the punishment for tampering with drug samples may be worse than failing the test. In some states, doing so may even result in criminal charges.  

4. Hydrate

Hydrating can help in flushing drug metabolites out of your system. Thus, it’s recommended that you hydrate more when preparing for a drug test.  

5. Exercise

If you don’t exercise, add it to your daily routine when preparingfor a hair drug test. Exercising for at least 30 minutes daily can increase your metabolism and may help eliminate drug metabolites.  

Hair drug testing is one of the newer types of drug tests available today. Due to its efficiency and high accuracy, it’s quickly becoming the preferred drug testing method for employers and courts to screen for drug abuse.  



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