Five ways to pass a hair follicle test: and why they won’t work

Karolina Baker, Alphabiolabs

By Karolina Baker, Health Testing Specialist at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 04/05/2023

Persistent drug misusers beware: hair drug testing is considered the gold standard when it comes to proving drug abuse. It can effectively confirm long-term exposure to drugs over a defined period of time depending on the length of hair collected.

The reason is that after a drug has been absorbed into the bloodstream, it is broken down in the liver to produce specific metabolites. These metabolites then become embedded into the growing hair shaft from blood supplying the hair follicle. And they remain in the hair as it grows. As such, hair testing can detect a person’s past drug intake for a period of up to 12 months.

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1. Get an early test

It may be able to effectively confirm long-term exposure to drugs, but hair strand analysis cannot show recent drug history. This is because it can take between 7–10 days for the hair containing the drug to grow from the follicle to above the scalp. If your only episode of drug taking was in the period days before your hair strand test, there’s a good chance that your hair drug test will not be positive for drugs.

However, in this case, other analytical sampling methods could be used, which have a much smaller window of detection. For example, urine and oral fluid tests can give positive results for drugs after only a matter of hours.

2. It wasn’t me

If you’ve been in an environment heavily laden with a drug, detectable levels could be found in your hair sample due to smoke. In addition, it could be transferred by direct contamination (such as by hands). To avoid any such false positive results, AlphaBiolabs chemically washes each hair sample three times to remove or reduce any drug present prior to analysis. The washing solution can also be analysed if required.

For example, if you admit to being surrounded by cannabis smokers, the washing solution could be used to back up the test results. However, any drug you have taken directly will be found within the hair shaft itself. This means that any environmental exposure to cannabis can be differentiated from ingested cannabis.

3. Baldly go

It’s a fact that no-one can perform a head hair drug test on you if you’re bald. However, before you reach for the shaver, be aware that body hair can also be tested for drugs. In the case of no, or insufficient, head hair, alternative collection sites would be considered including pubic, underarm, leg – and if male: chest and beard hair.

The growth rate of hair from these alternate sites differs from head hair, which means that body hair cannot be used to determine a specific timeframe of drug use. However, it can provide up to a 12-month overview.

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4. Take a fake

If your hair sample collection is not witnessed then there are several options open to you. You could send in another person’s ‘clean’ hair sample; you could take a section of hair from another area other than that requested; and you could even submit fake or even animal hair.

It is possible to submit hair samples for testing for your peace of mind. This means that the results are not legally binding and could not be used in a court of law. However, it does make it easier to try and fool the testing laboratory. Another person’s hair sample could easily be sent in for testing under your own name.

No-one would know it wasn’t your sample. In the same way, fake hair or your pet’s clippings could be submitted. However, all hair samples are visually inspected on arrival at our lab. Fake hair would be rejected at this stage.

In addition, our trained sample collectors ensure that the person undergoing the testing is the correct individual. Identification is checked and photographs taken. A company sample collector would also ensure that the hair sample is taken from the correct area. It needs to be cut from the highest point of the scalp (the vertex) as this region is associated with least variation in growth rates. Ideally, the sample needs to contain around 200 individual strands.

5. Treat it to cheat it

Excessive shampooing, some cosmetic treatments and the use of thermal straighteners may reduce drug concentrations in hair to varying degrees.

Some detoxification shampoos are designed specifically to permanently reduce toxin levels in the hair strand so they fall below detectable levels in a laboratory hair test. By penetrating deeply into the hair strand these shampoos claim to remove all traces of accumulated chemical deposits including drug metabolites.

Various chemicals used in other hair treatments (such as dyeing, bleaching, perming and relaxing) may also interfere with drug test results and could possibly help you pass a test. Bleaching is purported to remove 40–80% of drug metabolites from a hair strand.

What affects a hair drug test result?

Be aware that laboratory tests that study hair samples for the presence of drug metabolites are extremely reliable. Because the metabolites pass from the bloodstream into your hair follicles this evidence remains locked in the strand of hair as it grows. The extent of any loss will depend on the cosmetic treatment used and the drug present. Are you willing to risk it?

A dead cert

So, can a hair drug test result be falsified? Not at AlphaBiolabs. The accuracy of any hair drug analysis depends on both the sampling procedure and the laboratory techniques employed. An accredited drug testing company ensures that the samples are analysed using state-of-the-art equipment to quickly identify specific illegal drugs, even those that are new to the market.

Our trained sample collectors will ensure that the correct individual is undergoing testing, and that the hair sample is real and indeed human! There will be no doubt about the tester’s identity and no chance of any tampering with the samples while the collection was being made.

If you have plenty of time on your hands, the only sure way of passing a hair drug test is via a natural detox. Using a peace of mind hair drugs test that isn’t witnessed will give you a better idea of what detox measures to take and if you have the time to take them. You might enjoy clean living? Make it a habit, and then you won’t have to worry about another drug test ever again.

For expert advice on hair testing and other drug testing solutions, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at info@alphabiolabs.com

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AlphaBiolabs is an accredited laboratory offering a range of drug testing services.

Karolina Baker, AlphaBiolabs

Karolina Baker

Health Testing Specialist at AlphaBiolabs

Karolina joined AlphaBiolabs in 2021, and holds the role of Health Testing Specialist.

As well as overseeing a range of health tests, Karolina plays an active role in the research and development of the company’s latest health test offerings.

Before joining AlphaBiolabs, Karolina worked as an Associate Practitioner at Mid-Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and as a research assistant at the Turner Laboratory, within the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at The University of Manchester.

Karolina’s main scientific interests include clinical genomics and genetic diagnostics. Her qualifications include a BSc in Molecular Biology and an MSc in Genomic Medicine.

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