Substance Use

Hair Drug Test: Purpose, Types, and Procedure

lab worker performing hair follicle drug test

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Hair Follicle Drug Testing and How to Get Help for Addiction

There are many ways to detect drug use, but urine and blood samples can be more difficult to get than a hair sample. Hair analysis also has the longest window of detection of any testing method, although it can’t detect all the same drugs as other tests. If you’re wondering how hair tests work, here’s what you need to know.

Drug tests are just one way to find out about drug use. If you or a loved one needs help with addiction treatment, Zinnia Healing can help. Dial (855) 430-9439 for answers to your questions.

How Does a Hair Follicle Drug Test Work?

Testers can administer a hair follicle test at any time without notice because shampoos, styling products, and hair dye will not significantly affect the accuracy of the test. You can take a hair analysis drug test at a doctor’s office, in the workplace, or even at home if given a testing kit. However, if someone gives you an at-home hair follicle kit, you’ll likely be monitored (like via video call) while you collect the sample.

The person collecting the sample will take about 100 to 120 hairs from your head. They can collect from multiple places to avoid creating a bald spot. If you don’t have enough hair on your head, your hair sample can come from body hair on the face, arms, armpits, legs, or elsewhere. However, a larger sample may be necessary to ensure accuracy.

Once the hair collection is complete, you or the tester will place the hairs into a sterile envelope and mail them to a lab. Hair drug testing results are usually returned within 24 hours.

When Is a Hair Follicle Drug Test Done?

Employers, healthcare professionals, and the police use drug tests to find evidence of drug use. A complete drug screening may include a hair sample, urine sample, cheek swab, and blood test, but hair samples can be used independently. Since each test has a different detection window and can detect other substances at varying accuracy levels, they often come as multi-panel tests.

While saliva samples can see recent drug use as soon as 30 minutes after someone consumes a drug, hair samples are considered the most revealing as they can show long-term drug use. In other words, it takes longer for a hair sample to show a positive result after someone has used a drug, but it will test positive for far longer (sometimes months) than saliva, blood, or urine.

What Drugs of Abuse Do Hair Tests Show?

If you have used any of the following drugs or prescription medications within the last 90 days, you will likely get a positive result on your sample of hair:

  • Amphetamines
  • Methamphetamine
  • Ecstacy
  • Cannabis (THC)
  • Cocaine
  • PCP
  • Codeine
  • Morphine

A unique thing about a hair sample is that it’s not simply a negative result or a positive result. The lab will look at the hair growth pattern and analyze it to show drug use patterns. The results can show both when you started over the last 90 days and how often you used the drug. It is especially helpful for non-illicit drug use, like in states where marijuana is legal, as the testing process can reveal if you stopped using a drug pre-employment.

The only foolproof way to pass a drug test is to live drug-free. If you’re looking to quit, Zinnia Healing can help. Call our helpline at (855) 430-9439 to get started.

What’s the Window of Detection for Hair Tests?

Urine and blood tests can detect specific drugs in the body for up to 1-2 weeks after the last use. How? They look for drug metabolites, the by-products your body creates when drugs break down in your system. Hair tests also look for drug metabolites but can detect other signs of drug use on a person’s head. For instance, if you have been around someone smoking THC, the oil could transfer to your hair and produce a positive result.

What happens when you’re asked to give a hair specimen for a drug testing program, and you’re worried about prescription drugs showing up or a false positive from exposure to drugs at home? It’s essential to speak with your representative. If your work is collecting the sample for workplace drug testing, you should reach out to HR and discuss the situation confidentially. On the other hand, if the police or a healthcare professional is taking the hair sample, you’ll want to discuss your rights.

How Do I Pass a Hair Test After Drug Abuse?

You may have used a specific drug, like the ones listed above, in the last 90 days. This substance use could lead to worrying about failing your hair analysis drug test. If you look up ways to pass a hair drug test, you might be given poor, unproven advice like bleaching your hair or shaving it off. However, bleaching and other processing methods will not lead to a negative hair test. Meanwhile, the tester will take the sample from elsewhere if you shave your head hair.

If you’re trying to avoid a drug test and choose to shave or wax your entire body, realize that while you can circumvent giving the hair sample, you will likely be asked to take other drug tests. Those tests may not be able to detect drug use over a long period, like a hair sample, but they could still reveal drug abuse. Regardless, going out of your way to avoid a hair drug test could raise suspicion and lead to deeper investigations into your activities. 

How Zinnia Healing Can Help

You don’t have to live in fear if you’re worried about failing a hair analysis drug test. However, you must understand that the only way to ensure you always pass a drug test is to transition to a drug-free life. Living free from drugs means getting help with your substance use disorder.

If you’re ready to take the next step toward addiction treatment, let Zinnia Healing help. Call our helpline anytime, day or night, at (855) 430-9439 for more information.