What is Hair Drug Testing?
Since hair growth is fed by the bloodstream, the ingestion of drugs of
abuse is revealed by analyzing a small sample of hair. Our testing method
measures the drug molecules embedded inside the hairshaft, eliminating
external contamination as a source of a positive test result. Hair testing
results cannot be altered with shampoos, bleaches or other external
2. What drugs are included in a standard
Hair Drug Test?
Cocaine (cocaine & benzoylecgonine), marijuana, opiates (Codeine, Morphine
& 6-monacteyl morphine), methamphetamine, (Meth/amphetamine & Ecstasy),
and phencyclidine (PCP). These are the five drug classes are mandated for
testing by the Federal Government.
3. What time period does a standard test
A standard screen covers a period of approximately 90 days. The hair
sample is cut as close to the scalp as possible and the most recent 1.5
inches are tested.
4. How effective is Hair Testing in
detecting drug users?
In side-by-side comparison studies with urinalysis, hair drug testing has
uncovered significantly more drug use. In two independent studies hair
drug testing uncovered 4 to 8 times as many drug users as urinalysis.
5. How fast does head hair grow?
Studies indicate that head hair grows on the average approximately 1.3 cm
(or 1/2 inch) per month. This growth rate varies slightly (estimated at ±
.2 cm per month, consequently there is some (± 1 week) time variation
6. How much hair is needed?
A standard screen with GC/MS confirmation requires 60+ milligrams
of hair or approximately 90 to 120 strands. The thickness of different
types of head hair (thick brown vs. thinning gray) is the reason for this
7. How does Hair Testing compare to
The primary differences are:
1) wider window of detection
2) inability to tamper with the test.
Cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates and PCP are
rapidly excreted and usually undetectable in urine 72 hours after use. The
detection period for hair is limited only by the length of the hair sample
and is approximately 90 days for a standard screen.
At this time there are no known adulterants for hair tests. Since hair
tests analyze the drugs inside the hairshaft, external
contaminants/chemicals have no effect. Additional advantages include
non-intrusive collection procedures, virtual elimination of test evasion;
greater accuracy through test repetition capability. The combination of
an increased window of detection and resistance to evasion makes Hair
Testing far more effective than urinalysis in correctly identifying drug
8. How soon after use can a drug be
detected in hair?
It takes approximately 4-5 days from the time of drug use for the affected
hair to grow above the scalp. Body hair growth rates are generally slower
and cannot be utilized to determine a timeframe of drug use.
9. What is the shortest time period that
can be accurately evaluated?
The minimum time period is approximately one month (1/2 inch). Body hair
can be used if head hair is too short for a test. If body hair is used the
timeframe represented by the test is approximately one year, due to the
different growth pattern in hair below the neck.
10. Can tests be run on people with little
or no hair?
Hair can be collected from several head locations and combined to obtain
the required amount of hair. In addition, body hair may be used as a
substitute to head hair. In the rare case where no hair is collectable,
complete urine/adulteration testing may have to be utilized.
11. Does body hair give the same type of
results as head hair?
Yes, body hair can be used to test for the five standard drug classes,
though body hair growth patterns are different than head hair. Most body
hair is replaced within approximately one year. This means a test done
with body hair will be reported as drug usage during approximately a one
12. Can hair collected from a brush be
Yes, but the test will be reported as having an
"anonymous" donor. We cannot attribute the sample to any specific person
and we cannot determine the timeframe of the test, so the test result is
not legally defensible. The test will only report that the sample
submitted had the reported drug metabolite components.
13. How does Omega Laboratories establish
its cut-off levels?
Omega follows the cut-off levels generally accepted industry-wide and
recommended by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
14. Does Omega Laboratories perform GC/MS
confirmation of all positive hair results?
Yes. Omega provides confirmation utilizing GC/MS for all specimens that
screen potentially positive (opiates, PCP, methamphetamine, cocaine and
15. Can Hair be affected by cross-reacting
substances such as over-the-counter medications?
Enzyme-immunoassay antibodies (EIA), similar to those used to test urine,
are used for the initial screening test for drugs of abuse in hair;
therefore the potential for substances such as over-the-counter
medications to cause a false positive screening result does exist. To
provixe accurate results Omega confirms all positive results by GC/MS.
16. Does external exposure to certain
drugs, like marijuana or crack smoke, affect the Hair Test results?
Omega testing looks for the metabolite by-product of drug ingestion that
is deposited inside the hairshaft by the bloodstream. For example, to rule
out the possibility of external contamination for marijuana smoke creating
a false positive, Omega reports a positive result only when it detects the
metabolite (i.e. THC-COOH) . This metabolite is only produced by the body
and cannot be an environmental contaminant.
17. Is Omega Laboratories' internal
chain-of-custody comparable to a urinalysis laboratory test procedure?
Omega's internal chain-of-custody is modeled after the requirements in the
18. How long are positive and negative test
reports kept on file?
Test reports are retained for a period of three years or as mandated by
19. What is done with the excess hair that
is not tested?
The hair not used from the time period being tested (i.e. three months
equals 3.9 cm) is stored in the chain-of-custody sample acquisition pouch.
Negative hair is stored for three months. Positive hair is stored for one
20. What experience does Omega Laboratories
have provided Expert Witness Testimony?
Omega Laboratories' forensic experts have qualified as expert witnesses in
Ohio, New York State, California, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Alabama and
Arizona in over 250 civil, criminal, and Superior Court trials.
21. What other drugs are available to be
tested in hair analysis?
Currently, nicotine, methadone, simple benzodiazepines, tricyclic
antidepressants assays and mescaline have been detected in hair. However,
many details such as cutoff levels and dose response relationships have
not yet been established for these compounds, though, detection of these
compounds is possible by special arrangement with the Laboratory.