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Ever since employers or companies have started doing the hair follicle test, the substance abuse done by the employees has gone down by a lot. The reason behind this is that the employees do not want to risk their jobs and careers for a few moments of bliss.
Not just the hair follicle test, companies, and organizations have been doing various kinds of drug tests like urine tests, blood tests, etc to find out which of their employees is not following the guidelines and is putting themselves and others around them in danger.
Substance abuse is nothing new in the world, people have been doing it for a long time. It falls on the employers to make sure that everyone in their company is safe and does not pose a threat to anyone in any way and by doing hair follicle tests or other kinds of tests, they do just that.
In this article, I am going to tell you everything there is to know about hair follicle tests, what they are, how they are done, the cost of the test, and a lot of other things. To find out all this information, you just have to stick around till the end.
What Is A Hair Follicle Test?
As I said, a hair follicle test is a type of drug test. It is also referred to as a hair drug test. This test tests for illicit drug use and misuse or abuse of prescripted medicines. A hair sample is taken from the test subjects to conduct the drug test and that is done by using scissors.
The sample then gets analyzed for any signs of drug abuse in the last 90 days prior to the test. This hair follicle test is done to determine drugs like amphetamine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, PCP, opioids like codeine, morphine, 6-acetyl morphine, etc.
Employees often think that they can stop consuming the drug a few days before the hair follicle test and they’ll be all good but this strategy of theirs won’t work because the hair drug test can detect the drug in the system for about up to 3 months before the test.
Hair follicle tests are very popular and the reason behind that is that they can tell you a lot of things about drug abuse like how long the drug has been in your body, when it was administered and how long it was administered. It can also tell you if the drug consumption was ever paused or not.
For the hair follicle test, you only need to give a bit of your hair to the testing people and because of that, it is not in any way an invasion of privacy. It will only determine the nature of the substance abuse and whether you have been putting yourself or others in any danger.
These drug tests are carried out when the employers are hiring someone new or at random intervals. Doing it randomly helps the employers because then the culprits would not get alerted about the test or find some ways to trick it, although it is very hard to trick such a test if not impossible.
Why Do Employers Prefer Hair Follicle Test Over Urine Drug Tests?
As I said, companies or organizations conduct these drug tests to make sure there is a safe working environment in place for all the employees, that no harm comes to anyone in any way. If a person is abusing a substance, then that person is a danger not just for themselves but for others as well.
When companies conduct drug tests, they prefer either the urine drug test or the hair follicle tests. Other methods like oral fluid testing or breath testing are there as well but they don’t really tell you much information about drug abuse in the past.
Employers also don’t use those methods because they can be very costly. The most common type of test is the urine drug test. This test is conducted when an employee joins or has an accident or even randomly. This is a legally accepted drug testing method in the United States.
When you consume some drug, something called metabolites is left in your system. Urine testing shows whether the metabolites are there in your urine or not. Although urine testing does not tell you when the drug was administered. Urine testing shows the consumption of PCP, opiates, cocaine, etc.
Employers prefer hair follicle testing because it can tell you when the drug was consumed and how long the person has been consuming it. That is an obvious advantage over urine tests. Another reason is that sometimes people are able to trick the testers and give someone else’s urine sample. I am sure you must have seen Dwight and Michael in the TV show The Office doing just that.
Can You Cheat In A Hair Drug Test?
One of the questions people will ask will be, can you cheat in the hair follicle tests? The simple answer would be ‘No’ as I have also covered this in a separate article, click here. Still, I’ll brief y’all on this one.
There are a lot of methods on the internet that tell you ways you can cheat in this test but believe me, they do not work. Yes, even the special medicines or shampoos that claim they remove metabolite traces.
A lot of methods that the internet lists include shaving your head just before the test is going to be conducted. Although if you went to a hair follicle test with your head shaved, it is going to raise suspicions. If you go to a hair drug test with your head shaved, then they will just take hair from your body.
Giving hair from your body would be worse because the body hair grows slower than the hair on your head and hence it will show a longer period of drug abuse. Another method is to wear a wig but a wig can easily be distinguished from real hair, if you are rich you can waste money on expensive wigs but it won’t guarantee you passing the drug test.
People also try to bleach their hair but bleaching does not remove all of the metabolites from your hair. It removes them but not enough amount. People even try swapping samples but the test process is foolproof and the swapping cannot be done.
So instead of trying all these methods that are going to fail, you should just stop the drug abuse as it will help you save money, save embarrassment, and most importantly, help you save your life.
How Is The Hair Follicle Test Done?
The hair follicle tests are done either in a lab or in a hospital. Sometimes, these tests are even carried out in your workplace. These tests are done using a kit that is mailed to the lab after the testing has been done. If you want to do a hair follicle test for yourself, then you can even order a hair follicle test for your home online.
If your employer is carrying out the test for you, then they will be there to supervise you taking the test. This is to ensure nothing out of the ordinary happens while you are taking the test. Like I said, washing, dyeing, bleaching your hair does not work. Not even wearing wigs or any other such things are going to work so you should not waste your time or money on them.
When you go for the test, they will first confirm your identity and other information and then proceed to take 100 to 120 hairs from your head. It might sound like a lot but it isn’t that much hair.
But even if you are concerned about having a baldish patch on your head, you do not need to worry because the hair is cut from different places of your head to not cut a lot from one place. Like I said, if you are naturally bald or you have shaved your head, then the hair for the test is going to be taking from your body.
The hair collector will collect your hair and then place it in a foil and then secure it and will mail it to the laboratory overnight. Now let me tell you what the results of your tests would mean.
What Do The Hair Follicle Test Results Mean?
Like with anything, there are three possible results of your test: negative, positive, and inconclusive. When you get a negative test, it means that the test was concluded within 24 hours after removing the hair. Initially, a screening test is performed.
The screening test that is performed is called ELISA, this test will tell them if the hair sample has had any drugs in it or not. If you get a negative test result then that means that you have not consumed any drug in the last 3 months. If the sample fails this screening test, then more testing is required to determine whether it contains any drug traces.
To confirm whether your hair contains drugs or not, it takes more than 72 hours. All the samples that have failed the screening test, that is the samples whose results were not negative, go through a second test. This test is called chromatography or mass spectrometry (GC/MS).
The GC/MS drug test confirms whether the hair contains any drug traces and also determines what type of drug has been consumed by the person.
The last type of result is the inconclusive result. This result is not a common result. An inconclusive test result means that there was something wrong with the hair sample. If that happens then the hair sample gets rejected and then the test will get repeated for the proper result to be determined.
When the test has been completed, the test results would be sent either to the individual or the organization conducting the test. The test result would be shared via secured means and that is done over secure fax, phone calls, or an online interface.
Because your health information is confidential, you will have to sign a release form before the results of the test get forwarded to your employer. You should know that the hair follicle test would not determine the exact date when the drug was consumed.
Hair follicle tests will only determine an approximate date when the drug might have been consumed and that is because the rate of hair growth varies for every person.
How Accurate Can This Test Be?
A lot of things are done to make sure that the hair follicle test is as accurate as possible. When your hair gets collected first, it is washed and tested for any kind of environmental contamination which could affect the result of the test.
To make sure that the test results are accurate, the laboratories perform two tests, the first test is called ELISA as I said and the other is GC/MS. The GC/MS test can determine up to 17 different types of drugs that could have been consumed by the person.
Some studies have found that there have been some inconsistencies in the test result when it comes to cannabis. Some medicines can interfere with the test. For example, if you have been taking an opioid painkiller, it is going to show up on your test and in that case, your employer would ask you to give the documentation of the prescription.
If you think that the hair test results are not accurate, then you can request another test as well.
What Is The Expense Of The Hair Follicle Test?
A hair follicle test would usually cost you more than a urine drug test. If you are going to do this test at home, then it will cost you around $65 to $85 and if you do this at a hospital or a laboratory, it will be around $100 to $125.
If your employer is the one who is conducting this test, then they are going to pay you for the time you spent giving the test, the law requires them to do so. And the employer is going to pay for the test as well.
Although, you should keep in mind that if the hair follicle test is being performed before you get employed, the employer is not going to pay you for that. If the test is being conducted in a hospital for medical purposes, then the money would be taken care of by your medical insurance.
The Bottom Line
Hair follicle test is a test that will determine the drug abuse of the last 3 months and it can be detected because the drug leaves chemical in the bloodstream and that goes into your hair when the hair is growing.
Although, if you have consumed the drug in the last 5-6 days, then it won’t be possible for that to be detected in the hair follicle test. If the drug testing is to be done for recent drug consumption then urine drug testing will be done.
If you haven’t been consuming drugs, then there is nothing for you to worry about but if you have been consuming drugs, then you might want to rethink your ways of living. Keep in mind to inform the employer about the various medicines that you might be taking as they might show up in the test.
Lastly, if you think that I may have missed out on some points or you feel you have any suggestions then do not hesitate to mention them in the comments section below.
Till then, Stay Safe, Stay Healthy!