Ways to pass a hair follicle drug test
To figure out if someone has used drugs recently, often urine drug tests will be performed. These tests are accurate and can be a good indicator if someone has used drugs within the last few hours to days. Because these tests have such a short detection time though, many employers are using hair follicle drug tests to determine people’s habitual drug use.
What is a hair test for drugs?
When you get a hair follicle test, the hair that is closet to your scalp is tested for drugs. Drugs are absorbed into your blood and get carried to your hair follicles. These metabolites attach to your hair and can show up in your hair for up to 90 days.
Hair drug testing can detect both prescription and illegal substances including the following:
- Certain Over the Counter medications
During your hair test, the sample will be removed directly from your head. The desired testing length is 1.5 inches, but as little as a .5 inch can be tested. If there is not enough hair present on your head, hair from other parts of your body can be used for testing.
Generally, drug tests for hair will be done in a medical setting or laboratory. However, some employers may perform the tests themselves and send it to a lab using a test kit. There are at home hair test kit products available that you can also use to check your hair for drugs on your own time. Most times, if your employer requires you to get a drug test, it will likely need to be done at a supervised facility. This is so that they can ensure the hair samples belong to you.
Approximately 100-120 strands of your hair is removed for testing and will be cut by a designated lab technician or other person. They will often take hair from various areas of your head so that they do not make any bald spots. Again, if you do not have enough hair on your head, they will take samples from other areas. The hair strands will then be put in foil and a security envelope to be sent for testing.
Hair follicle tests are very accurate and many products or methods (dye, regular washing, and styling products) will not affect the results. Your hair samples get soaked in a chemical to remove any masking agents and open up the follicles to the inner layers. Drugs will be detected in these inner layers even with normal washing or styling products and they can remain in your hair for up to three months.
Cutoff Levels for Hair Testing
The cutoff levels for hair follicle drug testing are used to determine if a test is positive or negative for specific drugs. For employment testing, the standard in the industry is a two-tier method, meaning that there is an initial screen done on part of the hair sample and then another test, known as a confirmation test, performed on a different part of the sample.
The initial test is done so the negative samples can be separated from anymore testing. The confirmation test is more thorough and uses processes like chromatography-mass spectrometry to detect for drugs. A positive result will only be determined if the drugs are able to be identified at certain concentration levels that equal or are more than the cutoff level. This means that a negative test result, does not mean that no drugs were found, but that the amount of drugs were less than the cutoff levels and could not be reported as positive.
Cutoff levels for hair tests are in pictograms (PG) per milligram (MG). The most commonly tested drugs’ cutoff levels are below:
- Marijuana – 1 pg/mg (Screen Cutoff), 0.1 pg/mg (Confirmation Cutoff)
- Amphetamines/Methamphetamines – 300 pg/mg (Screen Cutoff), 300 pg/mg (Confirmation Cutoff)
- Cocaine – 300 pg/mg (Screen Cutoff), 300 pg/mg (Confirmation Cutoff)
- Opiates – 500 pg/mg (Screen Cutoff), 500 pg/mg (Confirmation Cutoff)
- PCP (phencyclidine) – 300 pg/mg (Screen Cutoff), 300 pg/mg (Confirmation Cutoff)
How to pass hair follicle tests
- Stop using Drugs
The first way to ensure that you will pass your hair test is to stop using drugs for at least 90 days before you have to take your test. This will be easiest if you are looking for new employment and have a longer timeframe to work with.
- Hair detox shampoos
Drug detox shampoos can also help you pass your hair test successfully, but only if you use the right ones. There are many products available that claim to help remove drugs from hair that simply do not work. You want to find a product that works for all drug users, meaning that it works on all types of drugs and for any drug use amounts. Along with your hair detox shampoo, you will want to use a reliable method to make sure you are cleaning your hair properly to completely remove all the drugs from your hair follicles. Random drug testing performed by your current employer can be problematic for you unless you use an effective detox shampoo and hair cleaning method.
You can shave off all of your hair, which will cause them to be unable to perform the test. This may turn out negatively for you though because your employer may think this is suspicious.
Positive Test Results
So what happens if your test comes back positive? This can be detrimental to your employment or other legal situations. With a positive result, you may tell them that you were just exposed to drugs (think second-hand marijuana smoke), but that you did not actually use any substance. This will not work to change the results of your drug test. Your hair can become contaminated by using another drug user’s brush, towel, hat, etc., so you must be very careful when working to getting your hair clean from drugs. Any positive result, regardless of use, can be harmful to you.
Hair follicle testing can be used at any time and is often used for pre-employment purposes or at random for current employees. Drugs attach to your hair and stay in it for months, so you must stop using drugs or use a potent high quality drug detox shampoo method for your hair to become clean enough to pass. Hair tests have quite a high accuracy rate and employers will use these results to determine the habits of the perspective and current employees.
Make sure that you tell the lab tech taking your samples if you are using prescription medication or other over the counter medicines that can show up as illegal substances. A hair test itself is unable to determine the difference between legal and illegal substances. Some prescriptions and over the counter meds can lead to false-positive results. This can be especially upsetting, so be honest and upfront about your medications.
Although urine tests are still widely used, employers are shifting their focus to testing for more long term drug use instead of just testing for current drug use. Drug tests for hair are now the most popular way for employers to monitor drug use for their perspective and current employees because of their focus on habits of substance use.