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How nail drug testing works is very similar to how hair drug testing works. In hair, any drug that is consumed circulates in the bloodstream and a proportion of it and its metabolites enter the hair follicle and become incorporated into the keratin of the hair shaft.

The principle of drug incorporation into nails is similar. Nails are also made of keratin. And it is this fibrous protein that again traps any drugs and their biomarkers ready for detection. The turnaround times for both testing methods are also similar at 3-5 days each.

Nails provide a highly stable, simple-to-collect and easy-to-transport sample. Both fingernails and toenails can be tested for the following drugs: Methamphetamine, Amphetamine, Benzodiazepines, Cannabis, Cocaine, Ecstasy (MDMA), Ketamine, Methadone, PCP, Opiates and Zolpidem.

Unlike head hair, nails can’t be segmented to provide a month-by-month analysis of the donor’s drug usage. Instead, nail drug testing can give an overview and detect a drug for up to 12 months after use.

Why choose nail drug testing?

When hair testing is not possible (such as the donor has no or little hair, for religious reasons, and for those concerned with their appearance), nail drug testing provides a useful alternative.

In addition, obtaining a sample is less obtrusive with nail drug analysis. Clippings need to be taken as near to the nail bed as possible. If the nail is long (5 mm or above) then only one would be required. If the nails are short then it may be best to take clippings from a couple of nails. Either fingernails or toenails can be used for the drug test, but not a mixture. Approximately 10 mg of nail is required in total. The advantage of using toenails is that there is less potential for contamination. Acrylic nails, Shellac and other forms of nail varnish would need to be removed as this may damage the surface of the nail and impact on the drug test results.

For legally defensible nail drug testing results, the nail samples would need to be collected under chain of custody conditions. This would require either an appointment with one of our trained sample collectors at a place convenient to the donor or at one of our 11 free nationwide Walk in Centres.

Call 0333 600 1300 for more information on nail drug testing or email us at For information on any of AlphaBiolabs’ drug testing solutions, including our home drug testing kit, please visit our website