Guest Blog Post: Cheating on a Hair Follicle

One of the services that Tomo Drug Testing offers is hair follicle testing. Hair follicle testing is the preferred testing modality for many clients, due to its long window of detection and the difficulty a donor finds in “cheating” the test.

A hair follicle test can be conducted using head hair or body hair. During a collection of head hair, our technician uses sterilized scissors to cut strands of hair from multiple places along the crown of the donor’s head. This is done to ensure that the missing hair is not noticeable. The hair collected from the donor’s head is then packaged and sent to the toxicology laboratory. Ordinarily, our technicians take about 90-120 strands of hair, which is roughly the diameter of a pencil. Hair from a donor’s head can detect drug use for up to 90 days!

Body hair can also be tested. In this procedure, a Tomo technician uses a brand new and sterilized disposable razor to shave off body hair—typically from the arms or legs. A cotton ball-sized specimen is collected and sent off to the laboratory. While body hair detects drug use for longer than 90 days, the exact window of detection varies from person to person.

To date, there are no known commercial products that will successfully adulterate a hair follicle test. Shampoos, dyes, bleaches, etc. do not have a significant effect on the validity of hair follicle testing, per the reviews completed by the FDA. As such, environmental contamination is a non-issue with this testing.

Although hair follicle tests are nearly impossible to “cheat”, it doesn’t mean that some donors don’t try. It’s not uncommon for our collectors to encounter a donor who has shaved his or her head in an attempt to avoid a hair follicle test. In such instances, donors are often surprised to learn that we can collect hair from the body as well.

In a recent, more dramatic example, a donor attempted to cheat the test by using the hair of another individual. The donor in question came into our clinic in Indiana and requested to cut his own hair in lieu of our technician doing the cutting. Of course, per procedure, our technician refused. The donor was then observed pretending to pull his own hair out! He showed a handful of hair to our technician and asked if we could just test the hair he’d gathered because he was leery of what “might be on the scissors we use.”

Thankfully, our tech leaned on his processes and procedures and explained how the sterilization of the scissors would ensure the test could not be adulterated. Predictably, the donor refused to complete the test once he discovered that he wouldn’t be able to cheat.

Overall, hair follicle collection is a great testing methodology. Through our extensive online and hands-on training, our techs are prepared to conduct these tests with the utmost integrity, giving Tomo one more modality of testing to add to our drug-testing arsenal!