Hair drug testing is becoming the go to pre-employment and random drug test for many employers and court ordered probation testing. It’s non-invasive, easy to collect and to store, and it is the only drug testing method that provides up to 90 days history of drug use. It’s also 5-10 times more accurate than a body fluid test. In fact, Chilean mummies that are hundreds of years old have had their hair test positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine. The test is often referred to as a hair follicle test, but this is incorrect. The follicle is the tissue surrounding the root below the scalp and is not part of a hair test. For standard hair testing, the hair is cut from the scalp and then tested for drug metabolites that become irreversibly embedded into the hair. Generally the inch and a half of hair closest to the scalp is tested. This provides approximately 90 days of history. In some cases, rehab centers or probation offices will test the entire length of hair. It is cut into 90 day sections, then each section can be tested to get a longer history of abuse. And as the test becomes more and more common, so too are products claiming to be able to fool the test.
Do they actually work?
There’s an extensive and expensive online market for products that claim they will allow you to pass a hair drug test. Some “detox” shampoos and treatments sell for hundreds of dollars. Some websites even list vinegar, acne medicine, and laundry detergent as methods to hide drug use from a hair drug test. But can any of it really work?
Hair drug testing looks for the metabolites of various drugs. Metabolites are what your body produces when you ingest or smoke a drug or alcohol. They circulate through the blood stream and become deposited throughout the hair shaft.hair where they remain. Many studies have been done to test the ability of products to remove or reduce the ability to detect drugs. All have shown that shampoos do not have any significant effect on removing drugs deposited in the hair. Shampoos remove any drugs that may be deposited on the outside of the hair, but that is not what drug tests are looking for. They look for the metabolites within the hair. These cannot be removed by shampoos.
Another method of trying to fool a hair drug test is by cosmetically treating the hair. Bleaching, dyeing, waving, and relaxing are all offered up as ways to prevent the ability to detect drug use. However, study after study has shown that while the damage these products do to the hair can reduce drug concentration by 50 to 80%, it does not completely remove them from the hair. Some testing centers even test for signs of chemical alteration of the hair in an attempt to “fool” the test. And most of the time drug testing is random, so even if you did buy the “pass the test” product, you probably won’t have time to use it before you are tested. And shaving your head won’t necessarily exempt you from the test. Body hair can be tested the same as head hair. so a total (and we mean total) body shave is the only way out.
The simple unavoidable fact is that EVERY chemical you ingest, illicit or not, is circulated throughout the body and can be deposited in the hair follicle. It them moves into the hair as it grows. It’s not on the outside of the hair, which is the only place a shampoo or home remedy goes. Despite their claims, no product penetrates all the way through to the cortex. If you read the really fine print, you’ll find disclaimers stating that no two people are the same and while it may work for one person, it won’t work for the next. So, in the end, you can waste a lot of time and money, but the only way to guarantee you’ll pass a hair drug test (or ANY drug test) is to not do drugs.