An image of drug testing lab equipment for hair tests

According to the United States surgeon general, nearly 21 million Americans currently are suffering from substance use disorder (1). This number exceeds the total number of Americans diagnosed with any form of cancer. (1) For parents, this highlights the absolute importance of recognizing any potential signs your child may be developing a drug or alcohol program. Here we take a look at one invaluable tool for parents who may be worried their son or daughter is grappling with a substance use problem: hair drug tests.

How do hair drug tests work?

Hair drug tests use a shaft of hair rather than bodily fluids to test for drug use. These tests only require shafts of hair, and not hair follicles (which would be a much more painfulImages of test tubes in a testing lab test). The hair is simply cut from above the scalp, and does not require being pulled out. The sample of hair is then typically sent out to a lab for testing. Shampoo and conditioner products typically do not cause a problem when analyzing the hair samples. (2)

What drugs can a hair drug test screen for?

Hair tests can screen for a wide range of different drugs. The typical hair drug test screens for the following drugs (3):

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy/MDMA
  • Heroin (morphine)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Prescription opioids, such as oxycodone (oxymorphone), hydrocodone, hydromorphone, fentanyl, codeine)

What are the differences between hair and urine drug tests?

Both hair and urine drug tests each has different benefits depending on the situation. Urine drug testing can be performed at home and thus the results obtained quickly, while hair tests need to be sent off to a lab. Hair drug tests, however, can detect drug use for much longer windows of time than urine tests for most drugs.

How long are drugs detectable in hair samples for?

Drugs can be detected in hair for much longer periods of time than most other body samples. Most drugs typically can be detected in hair for a period of 90 days after the time of usage. (3) For comparison, many drugs such as opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine only can be detected in urine for a period of 2-4 days. (4)

Final Note

This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.