How Hair Follicle Drug Tests Work

Updated on November 17, 2020

For decades now, a good portion of the population has been subjected to urine-based drug testing for various stages of employment, probation, court-ordered mandates, or a variety of other reasons. However, with advances in technology and lower lab fees, a lot of you have recently encountered alternate, more accurate, hair follicle testing.

For many, the thought of this procedure can seem somewhat invasive and perhaps even a little nerve-wracking, so knowing the ins and outs of hair follicle drug testing can be very helpful. Even if you’ve undergone this type of drug test before, visit site, you may be surprised to find out the different types of panels and what they’re actually capable of testing for.

What is Hair Follicle Drug Testing?

A follicle test screens for drug use via a hair sample, typically from the hair’s root. Whenever drugs are ingested, whether inhaled, injected, or taken orally, they are absorbed into the bloodstream. Each hair follicle, including beard, underarm, pubic, and other body hair in addition to those on your head, has a blood vessel. This means that any drug introduced into the body is carried via the blood into the hair follicle, which can then be detected via testing.

However, this test requires more than a single hair and unfortunately, hair collected from a brush or other sources is not acceptable – the sample must be taken directly from the subject. Generally, the testing facility will look for a sample of hair that is at least 1.5 inches long and take a section about the thickness of a pencil.

Panel Testing via Hair Follicle

Hair follicle drug testing typically screens for opiates, both prescription and illicit such as heroin, as well as marijuana, MDMA/ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamine, and PCP. Testing can be used to check for a specific drug or for several different drug types or classes.

This means that whether you’re completing one at home or undergoing a hair follicle drug test for someone else, you’ll want to pay attention to the “Panel” number, which is an indicator of the number of substances the test is able to detect.

A 2 Panel test may only screen for marijuana and cocaine or opiates and methamphetamine and will be relatively affordable. Whereas a 12 Panel follicle test will be more expensive and test for an expansive array of substances such as:

  • Amphetamines (including Methamphetamine)
  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA and commonly known as Ecstasy / E / and Molly)
  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates (Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Oxymorphone, Codeine, Morphine, Oxycodone, 6-MAM)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Meperidine
  • Methadone
  • Propoxyphene
  • Tramadol 

Ins and Outs of Hair Follicle Drug Testing

There are several key factors that can make follicle testing preferable over other sample options. However, the main attraction for many organizations and government entities is that this type of testing provides a longer detection period, usually up to 90 days, and even if the subject briefly abstains from usage it can still be detected. Unlike a urinalysis, it’s rather difficult to cheat a hair follicle drug test and the lab can retest the same sample multiple times to prove results.

The drawbacks include the fact that this testing is still more expensive than traditional methods and there’s a longer processing time, meaning results take longer. Furthermore, while hair samples can detect long-term drug use, they’re not very useful in detecting recent use.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.