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Hair Follicle Drug Test

What is a Hair Follicle Drug Test?

A hair follicle drug test is a clinical procedure that involves collecting and analyzing a hair specimen for the absence or presence of drug metabolites.

Employers can request hair drug testing panels that cover, though are not limited to, the following substances and their compound derivatives: amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP).

In a hair follicle drug test, a sample consisting of roughly 100 hairs, ideally with a length of around 1.5 inches/3.2 centimetres is extracted from the crown of the head. Laboratory technicians apply a sophisticated methodology called Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) alongside mass spectrometry, which is oriented around isolating the catalytic breakdown of drug metabolites remaining in hair follicles. The window of detection for a hair specimen is 90 days.

For pre-employment reasons, a chain of custody protocol generally requires the donor’s name when undergoing review based on the legal aspects surrounding career opportunities involving safety-sensitive positions. While hair follicles allow for minimal error for adulteration or dilution to occur, a non-negative test is a contingent factor that warrants confirmatory testing by a Medical Review Officer (MRO) to finalize a positive or negative result. If the non-negative or positive test result proves erroneous, the MRO will account for any prescription medication(s) that may cause skewed results, factoring in the individual’s adherence to the correct dosage.

Unlike a urinalysis (urine drug test), a hair follicle drug test can help establish whether a job candidate is a regular drug user, not simply whether they have any drug metabolites in their system. However, the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) is a provincial mandate that recognizes addictions as a disability, creating a deadlock for employers to make accommodations against privacy rights discrimination. 

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