Posts Tagged 'hair follicle drug test'

How To Collect a Hair Specimen for a Hair Drug Test

People are surprised when they have their first hair drug test.  They are unsure of the procedure and are surprised by the amount of hair that must be collected.  To complete both a drug screen and a confirmation on a presumptive positive screen result, we need a hair sample that is approximately the width of a Sharpie marker.  Lengthwise, 1/2″ of hair equals 30 days.  A common hair test is for 90 days, so the hair must be at least 1 1/2″ in length.  ExperTox can test for longer periods of time – it all depends on the length of the Donor’s hair.

We decided to show you how it is done so there will be no surprises if you must have this type of test completed.  Check out our own Lou Ann Enis, Registered Nurse and Occupational Health Supervisor, as she walks us through the steps.

Let us know if you have any questions or comments!

Keeping Up With the Trends: Substance Abuse Has Changed. Shouldn’t Your Workplace Drug Testing Program?

Although I am reluctant to admit it at my young age of 44, I read an article in an AARP magazine. It caught my eye on the coffee table because it boasted a list of the top 50 drugs prescribed in 2008. Hydrocodone (a pain reliever) topped the list, and amongst the top ten which consisted of antibiotics, cholesterol medications and hypertension drugs was Alprazolam (for depression) at number nine. I found the list to be painfully depressing, no pun intended.

 A recent SAMHSA Report asked past year nonmedical users of prescription drugs how they obtained the drugs. Can you believe that over half of the nonmedical users of prescription-type pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives said they got the drugs they used most recently “from a friend or relative for free.” In a follow-up question, the majority of these respondents indicated that their friend or relative had obtained the drugs from one doctor.

 It makes me wonder why the most commonly used drug tests do not detect either of these drugs. Wouldn’t it be worth it to find out if these seemingly “easy access” meds have made it into your workforce?

Is drug testing a good idea? Sure I think we can get a consensus on that. Employer drug testing programs not only save employers money by earning them discounts on their worker’s compensation premiums, they also protect the owners from the possibility of having a liability on the job. But once an employer decides to implement a program, how do they know they are creating a robust testing program with options that increase the chance of catching users?

Here’s what I think. A robust program needs to include not only pre employment testing, but random testing also. A recent Quest Diagnostics study backs this up. It also needs to include random specimen type testing so that the detection time for the test may not be known by the donor in advance. Oral fluid, urine and hair testing should be part of the program.

Also, employers need to begin testing for more than just the standard five (Marijuana, Cocaine, Phencyclidine, Amphetamines and Opiates). An underemphasized fact is that the standard five mentioned above, although it does include Opiates, it will not detect Hydrocodone. In most cases, this must be ordered separately.

So, with all of those choices out there, how can an employer screen out the potential liabilities?

  • Utilize a robust pre-employment test including an oral fluid, urine and hair specimens. Combined, this will give a 90 day window into the applicant’s past.
  • Test for more than the standard five drugs mentioned above. ExperTox offers the most robust product line of hair testing that will include the above mentioned synthetic opiate (Hydrocodone) and Benzodiazepine (Alprazolam) class drugs.
  • Random testing of at least 50% of the workforce yearly

Incorporating this into the workplace testing program may sound complicated and expensive. But with the help of providers like Any Lab Test Now and ExperTox, your drug testing needs can be evaluated and performed at an affordable cost. The money you spend on your drug testing program will protect your assets and improve productivity.

And now, I think it is time for me to go to the book store and improve my coffee table literature to something more suiting a youngster like me!

By Laura Bradbury, Toxicology Manager at Any Lab Test Now 

Thanks Laura and Any Lab Test Now for being our guest blogger this week.  Excellent points!

How Does Drug Testing Associate with “Good to Great” Companies?

I have a tendency of having one thought that leads to another that leads to another.  This diatribe began by thinking about Quest Diagnostics’ recent statistical report that reflects hair drug testing is much more reliable than drug testing with urine specimens.  Keep into consideration that most hair testing laboratories only perform a standard five panel drug test on hair specimens, which do not screen for some of the other more commonly abused drugs such as benzodiazepenes, oxycodone and barbiturates.

Drug testing programs are put into place by employers for health, safety, productivity improvement and other reasons that affect the health and well-being of their employees and customers, as well as liability and bottom-line financials.  So, this thought then led to another, Jim Collins’ book Good to Great .  The main principle I got out of this book was how critical it is to hire the right people in a company’s efforts to grow and be its best.  Ask Bud Hadfield, founder of the International Center for Entrepreneurial Development (ICED).  He knows it is critical to hire the right people versus just capable people; in fact, this was the first question he asked me when we first met, signifying its importance.

Another thought – then, does the definition of the right people include candidates and employees who do not have substance use/abuse problems, even if used on a casual basis?  What we know about testing urine specimens for drug testing purposes is that  [a] attempts at adulteration are most prevalent when compared to other types of samples such as hair, nails or oral fluid; [b] it has a fairly narrow detection window when compared to hair (where the standard is 90 days); therefore, persons “stop” taking drugs to avoid positive test results when they know they are going to be tested for pre-employment or random purposes; and [c] employers many times “plan” the drug testing schedule over a period of time that allows street-wise drug users to implement [b] above.

It’s not just all about the specimen, though.  Why are employers still using the standard five (5) panel drug test for non-DOT purposes?  An employer once told me they have a low positive rate in there company; therefore, their program was working and there was no need to make any “changes”.  Well, maybe there was a low positive rate because the employer was missing commonly used drugs such as benzodiazepenes (eg. Xanax), hydrocodone (eg. Vicodin) or oxycodone (eg. Oxycontin)?  Maybe they allowed too much time to pass between notice given to a candidate and the actual drug test?  Maybe a better reflection of the person’s use of drugs would have been reflected in a 90-day hair test versus a short detection urine test that can be planned around?

My last thought was that so many companies want to be “great”.  They even invest in assessments such as DISC, Meyers-Briggs, Wunderlich, Chally and other types of tools to ensure they are choosing the right person for a specific position.  Yet, they don’t take the heavy implications of drug use into full consideration.  Why not also invest in testing for all of the most commonly used/abused illegal drugs, or getting a real snapshot of a person’s drug use history by looking at a 3 month period versus one week? 

I’ll leave you with a few additional statistics to ponder over, from a survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

People that use drugs are:

2.2 times more likely to request early dismissal/time off

2.5 times more likely to have absences of 8 days +

3 times more likely to be late for work

3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident

5 times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim

 So, if you really want to have a “great” company with happy employees and clients, zero or low accident and incident rates, lower employee turnover…  the list goes on… then shouldn’t a strong, proactive drug testing program be a part of the process?


Hair Drug Testing – Your Past Substance Use Is All “Locked” Up

Drug testing using hair specimens is becoming more common in the workplace.  Formally called “hair follicle drug testing”, there is a misconception on how the sample is collected.  Hair is not plucked from the head to get to the root, or follicle.  Drugs enter through the hair follicle, the only “live” part of the hair.  As the hair grows out, substances of abuse remain in each strand. 

The hair is actually cut close to the scalp by a certified collector.  The standard hair drug test is for a 90 day period, though longer testing periods are possible depending on the length of a person’s hair. Since hair grows at a rate of ½” per 30 days, 1 ½” of hair, about the circumference of a pencil eraser, is cut from the head for a 90 day test.

So, why is hair drug testing a better investment for employers, especially those with higher risk and safety environments? History.  Urine has been the standard specimen collected for drug testing purposes for many years.  The problem with a urine drug test is the detection period.  Depending on how often a person may use drugs, the detection period can be anywhere between 3 to 10 days.  Unfortunately, employers have a tendency of giving pre-employment candidates a few days’ notice of a pending drug test, or schedule random drug tests during the same week every month.  The “experienced” drug users know how to get around the system – they plan, stop taking drugs for a few days, and even try methods of adulteration such as dilution or sneaking a drop of bleach into the testing facility.  Combine street knowledge with detection time, and an employer may not know the real story behind their job candidate.

Hair testing offers a snapshot of a candidate’s or employee’s more common social and/or abusive behavior.  Hair is extremely difficult to adulterate; therefore, a true picture of a person’s usual drug use pattern is more apparent.  In fact, hair can be segmented into 30 day periods at the request of the employer or client, offering an even greater glimpse of a donor’s history.  Another benefit to hair testing is the collection time, approximately 10 – 15 minutes.  An employer desires to get an employee back on the job quickly.  There are people who have trouble urinating upon request; therefore, they sit in the collection site for long periods of time, drinking water in an effort to complete their test.  It is not the same with hair collections.

What’s the downside?  Employers’ immediate response is “cost”.  Yes, the cost to test hair specimens is more than a urine sample.  However, random testing can be reduced since detection covers a 90-day period.  In addition, since so much planning goes into passing a urine drug test by astute substance abusers, an employer may not know they have a problem on their hands until it is too late.  How long does it take to handle internal problems, document the issues, then finally move to termination?  What if an accident occurred on-the-job and it was found the employee was under the influence?  Can an employer afford lost customers and a poor image due to the actions of an employee that might be under the influence of drugs though based on his or her past test results, may not be the immediate suspected cause?

It would be quite a challenge and probably wishful thinking that substance abuse could be completely eradicated in the workplace, given that nearly 1 in every 20 people use drugs; however, alternative testing specimens and program solutions can further reduce safety and risk factors, while improving a company’s overall health and well-being.

One Source…Numerous Options…Differences That Matter!

ExperTox® is a recognized forensic toxicology laboratory, combining advanced technology and science with a human heart.

We use our scientific expertise to provide our customers answers to their substance abuse, use and exposure questions.

We focus our personal character on supporting, caring for and understanding what our clients are going through as they contemplate and proceed through the testing process.

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