What to Know About Hair Follicle Testing

Since you have landed on this page, I am going to guess that you are looking at the possibility of being subjected to a hair follicle test for your job or other requirement. And a lot of places these days are choosing this method over the urine tests since your hair will retain traces of whatever drug they are testing for longer.

Also, some companies don’t want to use the urine tests because in certain instances it may be easier for a prospect to “cheat” the system by using synthetic urine kits.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair to people who might be recreational users of marijuana; especially since it has become legal in a number of states. And it’s probably just a matter of time before it’s legal in most places.

An employee might be thinking, “Hey, it’s totally legal for me to smoke a little weed on a Friday or Saturday night, and I’m totally sober and ready for work on Monday morning. How can it possibly be fair to test me for a substance that may still show up in my hair long after the party is over?”

As a human being who empathizes with this point of view, I have to agree. However, the fact remains that some places still test for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the ingredient in marijuana that is most likely to get you into trouble.

There are other substances, however, that employers may also be looking for which may be considered a bit more serious. For example, a test can detect substances such as Cocaine and Opiates (e.g. codeine, morphine, 6-Monoacetylmorphine), Phencyclidine (PCP), Amphetamines such as Methamphetamine (and Ecstasy), and more.

Some employers rely on companies like Psychemedics, which has been doing hair testing for years now. And, Psychemedics claims that their tests cannot be easily “cheated” using some of the cleansing shampoos and other products and methods that many people will attempt.

How Serious Are You?

Here’s the thing you need to ask yourself: Are you really serious about getting a new job? REALLY serious? Have you been using a substance that is 1) likely to violate your prospective employer’s drug-free policies, and 2) likely to show up in a hair test?

If you have been using an illegal or other problematic substance, and you are serious about getting a new job, then the absolute BEST thing you can do TODAY is to STOP taking the substance, and go for a good 3 months – many say 110 days minimum – without taking one spec of the drug.

Note that in the event that the drug test is a blood test, you may have traces of the substance for 6 months. I know… that seems like a long time! Most employers are probably using urine or hair follicle tests, but just so you aren’t taken by surprise, you should know this.

Time is the only way to truly clean your system and hair.

One popular drug screening organization, ESA Staffing and Screening says that their laboratories can detect substances in head hair for 90 days. Something you should know, however, is that for body hair (if your employer tests body hair instead of head hair), you might be looking at up to a 12-month frame. The thing about body hair is that because it tends to grow more slowly, the testing might not necessarily be able to give an indication of how long a person has been using a drug.

Many people are currently using TestClear products, such as Old Style Aloe Toxin Rid Shampoo to help expedite the process of ridding of toxins from their hair.

Why might a company use body hair instead of head hair?

If you are walking around with a full head of hair, this question probably wouldn’t cross your mind. There are many people out there who DON’T have a full head of hair! This might be a case where alternatives are used. In other cases, for someone without hair, the alternative might be to administer an oral fluids (e.g. saliva) test, sweat (using a patch to collect the sweat) or urine test. Also, on occasion and as mentioned earlier, body hair can be used.

What if You Truly Have a Valid Prescription (or are receiving treatment)

Depending on the employer, and how serious you are about working for them, if you have had a substance abuse problem for which you are currently being treated, you might be able to explain your situation.

I remember working as a career counselor for a young man who had been incarcerated for a drug offense, and he had cleaned himself up. He needed to be brutally honest in his dealings with potential employers. His past did not dictate his future, and an employer gave him a chance. He was able to pass his screening because an adequate amount of time had passed between the time he was actively using and the time he was hired.

For high security/high clearance types of jobs, you aren’t likely to be considered for employment if you have a substance use issue. No manner of trying to clear your system of illegal substances is likely to help. In the case of my young client with a past drug history, he would not be eligible for a high clearance type of job (at least at the time). Perhaps several years of sobriety under his belt might help; however, in this case, it was best for him to pursue different types of positions.

Now, for situations where you may currently be under the care of a doctor, and are legally taking a prescription (for example, a prescription for oxycodone for a chronic pain condition), you may want to divulge this BEFORE you are subjected to a test. Don’t wait to claim “discrimination!” after the fact.

No matter where you are in your journey, best of luck as you move forward in your life and endeavors.