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6 Myths of Hair Follicle Drug Tests

Posted in Criminal Defense,Drug FAQ'S on August 29, 2016

In addition to blood and urine tests, some employers and law enforcement agencies may require a hair follicle drug test. They may use the results to make hiring decisions, custody decisions, or to prove the presence of drugs in the body during a certain time period. Many myths are circulating about this type of test, leaving people who do and don’t use drugs wondering about the validity and accuracy of the screening.

Myth No. 1: Hair follicle drug tests can detect the presence of all types of drugs.

Fact: Depending on the lab testing the sample, the types of drugs detected in the test may vary slightly. The standard hair follicle test will detect the presence of opiates, cannabis products, cocaine, amphetamines, and PCP. Some tests may also detect the presence of some prescription drugs including oxycodone. While the number of drugs a hair test can detect seems expansive, the effectiveness of the test for detecting individual drugs varies and some environmental factors may lead to false positives.

Myth No. 2: Hair follicle drug tests can detect drug use far into the past.

Fact: Drug tests on hair typically only cover a 90-day period with some person-to- person variation. In a standard test, the lab will test about the first 1.5-2 inches of hair and not the entire strand. Labs do have the capability to test the full strand of hair, but they only have reason to do so in limited circumstances and the validity of these tests is questionable. For job testing and other standard cases, you only need to worry about the top 2-3 inches from the scalp.

Myth No. 3: If I shave my head, the lab can’t conduct a hair follicle drug test.

Fact: Labs can test the hair from your chest, arms, and legs if they can’t obtain enough of a sample from your head. If you don’t have any hair on your body, however, they can’t conduct the test.

Myth No. 4: All employers can require hair follicle drug tests before and during the course of employment.

Fact: Employment drug testing laws vary from state to state. In the state of California, employers can only require drug screenings of any kind on current employees during limited circumstances. Prior to employment, however, the laws don’t specify the legality of drug screenings. An employer may require you to submit to a drug test, including hair follicle testing, if the company also requires drug testing for all other applicants. If you’re discriminated against during the hiring process or are wrongfully terminated due to an improper test or false positive, speak with an experienced Riverside criminal attorney about your options.

Myth No. 5: I can use a special shampoo to wash evidence of drugs out of my hair.

Fact: You may wash off some residue on the outside of the strand of hair, but the hair follicle test penetrates into the core and detects residual metabolites from specific drugs. You won’t find a shampoo or treatment on the market today that will erase the presence of drugs from your hair.

Myth No. 6: A strong defense to a positive hair follicle test doesn’t exist.

Fact: Several factors can affect the validity of test results. Each test purchaser and lab administrator must follow certain protocols during the testing process. For example, taking a strand of hair out of your hair brush to test isn’t valid nor admissible. Depending on the test detects, you may have a strong case regarding a false positive or other factors that may render the result invalid.

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While many types of drug tests can serve as concrete evidence of drug use in certain circumstances, the case isn’t always as black and white as it seems. Before you submit to a hair follicle test under any circumstances, ask a legal representative about your rights. Graham Donath works as an award-winning Riverside drug possession attorney.