Hair Testing – Is It Right for Your Company?

Hair Testing – Is It Right for Your Company?

On 20 Aug 2015, in

Realizing the costs associated with drug use among workers, government studies as far back as the early 1990s estimated that employing a drug user costs an average of $7,000-$10,000 per year. If these studies were done today, the average costs would likely be much higher.

Given the fact that drug use impacts the productivity and quality of a workforce, many companies have turned to drug testing as an investment rather than a cost – and a way to reduce absenteeism, accident rates, workers’ compensation and turnover costs. 

Hair analysis is a drug-testing method many companies rely on to identify periodic and habitual drug use by applicants or employees, especially in safety-sensitive positions. One of the distinct advantages of hair testing is the larger window of detection it offers over alternative drug-testing methods. Hair testing is also effective because it is resistant to adulteration, evasion and sample substitution. The collection and handling process is simple because there is no handling of bodily fluids, and hair samples can be shipped from anywhere in the world without the risk of deterioration during transit.

Psychemedics Corporation pioneered the use of hair testing for drugs of abuse over 25 years ago, and thousands of companies rely on their proprietary technology to screen out drug abusers. Their test involves using scissors to snip an undetectable sample of head hair, about the diameter of a pencil lead. The typical hair sample is about 1-1/2 inches in length and identifies drug use as far as three months back (each half inch section of hair equals approximately one month of history). If head hair is sparse or unavailable, body hair may be taken instead. The standard turnaround time for the test results is 24 hours following receipt of the sample for negatives, and an additional 3-5 days for positive results. 

Another unique advantage of Psychemedics’ FDA-cleared test is that it not only detects if drugs of abuse have been used, but can also provide information on the quantity and pattern of individual drug use. Their test results have been continuously upheld by state and federal courts, and some court systems even rely upon the technology in their probationary and diversionary programs.

The five drugs of abuse groups analyzed in a Psychemedics hair test include:


  1. Cocaine
  2. Opiates (including heroin metabolite 6-MAM, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and codeine)
  3. Phencyclidine (PCP)
  4. Amphetamines (including methamphetamine, amphetamine, MDMA-Ecstasy, MDEA-Eve and MDA)
  5. Marijuana (carboxy-THC)


These groups include some of the most abused prescription drugs such as oxycodone (e.g., Oxycontin®, Percocet®, Percodan®, Roxicodone®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Lorcet®, Lortab®) and hydromorphone (Dilaudid®).

If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of implementing a hair testing program, please contact BarnesCare at 314.747.5859. You can also visit the Psychemedics website to find out more about the history and advantages of using hair analysis to detect drugs of abuse.

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