Last updated: December 4, 2023
More employers are taking a second look at the hair drug test when considering employee drug testing. It may not be the most cost-effective, but the advantage of knowing if your employee has used drugs in the past 90 days gives cause to take notice of it. In fact, the DOT (Department of Transportation) is in the process of changing its testing method from the urine test to the hair drug test.
Drug users in the workforce are trying to figure out how to pass it.
An online search for detox products results in page after page of results that beat every type of employee drug test. Drinks that clear the system for urine tests come in all flavors while mouthwash and gum products proclaim that you will pass a mouth swab test. Of course, there are detox shampoos on the market to “beat” a hair drug test.
However, they are a waste of money. They are unable to wash drug metabolites from the hair for any length of time. When drug metabolites find their way to the hair follicle, they grow out into the hair shaft itself. They actually become part of the hair. This makes it impossible to strip them away even for a short period.
Home remedies promise a negative drug test result as well.
They involve ingredients such as vinegar, over the counter acne treatments, and laundry detergent. The process involves leaving the ingredients on the hair and scalp for a period of time (sometimes while wearing a shower cap or wrapping the hair in a towel) to allow them to penetrate the hair shaft.
Dying, bleaching, then, re-dying the hair may have also been included in this remedy. Or it may have been part of a different method entirely. Frankly, either way, we wouldn’t recommend it. Like shampoo bottles, they use the word “repeat” at the end of the instructions. Often, encouraging everyone to “repeat” a set number of times prior to showing up for the test.
We must note here that the step specifying not to blow-dry the hair as it will be very fragile may be an understatement. This cleansing method conjured up images of employees showing up for the test in tears literally holding their hair in their hands.
Another fine idea
Shaving one’s head in an attempt to avoid a hair drug test is not only self-incriminating, neither will it save the day. The technician will take the hair from some other spot on the body. We can’t even imagine the red flag moment a person showing up completely hairless would create.
Surely, no one has ever actually tried it.
Second-hand smoke doesn’t float
If someone tests positive for marijuana, proclaiming they have only been around others smoking the drug and ingested second-hand smoke is not true. It may be true that they have been around others smoking the drug. However, the odds that they inhaled enough smoke to pop positive on a test are astronomical. Passive marijuana exposure has been studied. Participants that confined themselves in tight spaces with marijuana smoke exposure tested negative.
The reality of it all
The only way to produce a negative result on a hair drug test is to avoid drug use.
These tests are highly accurate at detecting any drug use that is on the employer’s drug screen panel. The test requires no privacy so it is impossible to substitute the hair sample.
First, the test subject identifies themselves upon arriving at the test site. The technician then explains the process. To conduct the test, the tech snips a portion of hair (about 100 strands) from the head as close to the scalp as possible. This method detects recent drug use as it takes about three days for drug metabolites to begin to grow from the hair follicle into the hair shaft.
The technician bags the hair securely and marks it for identification. The test subject signs out, free to return to work in minutes. The technician transports the samples to the laboratory for analysis. Once there, the hair is cut to the specified test length. The standard length of one and one-half inches is sometimes overridden if the test is requested by court order. Any remaining length of hair is disposed of at that point.
The standard length of one and one-half inches detects drug use for a ninety-day period.
Employers can expect the results returned to them in about a week.
- Negative results indicate no drugs found.
- Positive results indicate drug detection.
- Inconclusive results aren’t common, but mean that neither a positive nor negative result was determined.
Urine today, hair tomorrow
It could be that the urine drug test will soon end its reign as the most frequently used employee drug test. If trends follow suit when the hair drug test becomes the mandated testing method used by the DOT, the majority of employers will make the switch as well.
And why not?
This extremely accurate drug test has an astonishing detection window. That knowledge alone is a very persuasive reason for someone to stop drug use.
And, that’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it? A drug free workplace is a goal employers strive to achieve. Drug use in the workplace is a safety hazard. Anyone that comes in contact with an impaired employee is at risk.
Employers drug tests as a deterrent.
Moreover, drug use affects productivity. Employees who use drugs are more likely to suffer from health problems and they are absent more frequently.
When an employee tests positive for drug use, it is a life-changing event. You can attempt to make it a change for the better by providing employees with information regarding treatment centers and outpatient support.
Pointing them in the direction to find help is a noble gesture. Don’t be offended if they don’t thank you now. Subsequently, if they decide to seek treatment and are rehabilitated, know that they will thank you many times over, even if they never see you again.
We’re willing to say their family will be thanking you too.