Myth Busters (Continued – #5): Hair testing is ‘new science’ and is not ready for prime-time

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Testing of hair for drug use.

Testing of hair for drug use.

Myth: Hair testing is ‘new science’ and is not ready for prime-time.

Fact: Hair testing was brought to the commercial marketplace by Psychemedics in 1987 after ten years of extensive research and development. With millions of hair tests already conducted for employers, child protection agencies, and police forces all over the world, the scientific validity has been proven over the last twenty-five years in numerous federal, state, and military courts, as well as in private arbitrations. Hair testing is most commonly used to identify lifestyle drug users at the pre-employment stage – thereby preventing them from entering the workplace and bringing associated risks – and the use of random hair testing is also growing. There are important things to look for when selecting a hair testing lab, including FDA clearance of screening tests and accreditation for hair testing by the College of American Pathologists (“CAP”), which requires compliance with rigorous forensic testing standards. Finally, the lab needs to effectively address external contamination through extensive and validated wash procedures, in order to distinguish between drug ingestion and exposure.