Services / Drug and Alcohol Testing Services

Hair Follicle Testing

Hair follicle drug testing reveals whether someone has used illegal or prescription drugs within the growth cycle of their hair. For example, 3.8 cm (1.5") head hair has an approximate 90 day window of detection, while 1.0 cm (0.5") has an approximate 30 day window.

Because the hair follicle maintains the drug levels for such a long period, this form of testing cannot identify whether someone is currently impaired.

After being ingested, insufflated (snorted), or injected, drugs enter the bloodstream. From there they are absorbed into the shaft of hair follicles all across the body. Because the inner shaft is what is analyzed, it cannot be adulterated by hair dye, bleach, or other products.

Different Test Types

There are two types of hair follicle tests that we offer at SureHire: 5 panel and 5 panel extended.

Both detect major recreational and commonly abused drugs:

  • THC (marijuana)
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • 6-Monoacetylmorphine (heroin)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Amphetamines
  • Methamphetamine
  • MDMA (ecstasy)

5 Panel Extended offers detection for four additional drugs, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, ocycodone, and oxymorphone. These are prescription opioids (pain killers/dissociative drugs) that are commonly referred to as codeine and oxycontin. While technically legal, these drugs have high abuse rates and may be illegally traded. Often, these dangerous prescription drugs go undetected.

Drugs Tested

Hair Lab-Panel 5 Hair Lab-Panel 5 EXT
Marijuana x x
Cocaine x x
Opiates x x
6-Monoacetylmorphine x x
Hydrocodone x
Hydromorphone x
Phencyclidine x x
Amphetamines x x
Methamphetamine * *
MDMA * *
Oxycodone x
Oxymorphone x

Understanding the Results

Results are gathered by screening hair samples at the laboratory. They are first tested by using Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) methodology, which has been proven reliable for routine drug testing. If any samples test positive at this stage, they are sent through for further testing to confirm.

Drug concentrations are measured in picograms per milligram (PG/MG). A picogram is an extremely small measurement: one-trillionth of a gram. Our laboratories follow industry-standard acceptable (cut off) levels for each drug at each stage in the testing process.


Cut-off Levels

Analyte Screening Cut Off pg/mg ELISA Confirmation Cut Off pg/mg GC/MS
Amphetamine 500 500
Cocaine/Metabolites 500 500
Opiates 200 200
Extended Opiates 200 200
Phencyclidine (PCP) 300 300
THC Metabolite 1.00 .10 GC/MS/MS

The results will be reviewed by a Medical Review Officer (MRO) who is a licensed physician responsible for evaluating drug testing. The MRO will determine whether a positive result is based on legal prescription use or not.

All of SureHire’s MRO’s are certified by the American Association of Medical Review Officers.

These results will then be shared with you or your employer within 5-10 business days, depending on whether they are negative or confirmed positive.

Certified Technicians

All of our testers go through extensive SureHire training to ensure collection is done with complete accuracy. The samples are then sent to a certified lab for analysis.

Illegal drug use and abuse of prescription drugs puts your entire job site at risk. The illegal and commonly abused prescription drugs detected by hair follicle testing create significant debilitating effects that make performing work dangerous.

Hair follicle testing is an extremely accurate form of drug testing. While it does not reveal current impairment, it detects historical usage up to 90 days, depending on the hair sample length. This makes it a viable tool for determining potential risky behaviour on your job site.

Impaired workers are not only dangerous, they are also proven less efficient, resulting in absenteeism and poor performance.

Legal Implications

Every employer is responsible for creating a safe work environment for their employees. Depending on your industry, failing to test your employees for drug usage can be in violation of Federal and Provincial Occupational Health and Safety legislation.

For more information on your responsibilities and the ramifications of failing to provide a safe work environment, learn more on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) website.

Booking

Booking a hair follicle test for your employee(s) simple. Get in touch with us:

Our Contact Centre Agents can assist you with finding the most convenient location within our extensive Canada-Wide network of faciltiies.

Turnaround

You can expect your results in 7-10 business days. You will find that your results for Hair Follicle Testing have a longer turnaround time compared to other forms of drug testing, because follicle analysis is an involved process.

FAQs

What is the minimum amount of hair required?

For head hair, the minimum length required is 0.5 inches and 270-390 strands (enough to fill 3 straws). This will provide an approximate 30 day results time frame.

What other time frames can be tested for?

60 Day Head Hair Test

  • Requires a minimum of 1 inch of head hair and 180-270 strands (enough to fill 2 straws)
  • Results are reported as a single 60 day time frame

6 Month Head Hair Test

  • Requires a minimum of 3 inches of hair and 90-150 strands of hair (enough to fill 1 straw)
  • Results are broken down into two 90 day reports

1 Year Head Hair Test

  • Requires a minimum of 6 inches of head hair and 90-150 strands of hair (enough to fill 1 straw)
  • Results are broken down into four 90 day reports

Segmented Head Hair Testing

  • Any time frame may be segmented into 30 day increments
  • Segmented testing is not recommended due to the variability of hair growth but can be completed if requested for an additional fee.

Can body hair be tested?

Body hair can be tested if the donor does not have sufficient head hair. However, body hair testing is not usually recommended for the following reasons:

  • Body hair is dormant and cannot provide an exact time frame for results.
  • Drug metabolites will only be detected in the hair if the drug was used while hair was growing.
  • Body hair is tested at its full length and results in an approximate 1 year time frame that cannot be broken down into smaller segments.

If body hair is used, it can be taken from the legs, arms, chest, back and armpits in the amount equivalent to the size of a cotton ball. Facial hair is not tested as it grows too quickly and does not provide accurate results.

What happens if the donor arrives at the appointment with insufficient hair for the requested time frame?

Recommended: donor/recruiter can decide not to complete hair testing and re-book once the hair has grown to the required length. Full testing rate will apply.

*Please note this is the only option for court ordered testing. If hair is insufficient, no collection will occur – full rates apply.

SureHire can collect head hair and ask the laboratory to test the full length even though it will not meet the desired time frame.

Warning: This option may result in a false negative, meaning it may not pick up on drug use within the time frame requested. Cost of testing remains the same.

Donor/recruiter can decide to proceed with body hair collection. Limitations of body hair testing must be thoroughly explained and understood prior to collection.

Warning: time frame results is approximately one year and may produce a positive result that may not have presented in the originally requested time frame. Cost of testing remains the same.

How does the laboratory establish cut-off levels?

Currently, there are no mandatory cut-off levels to be followed, so laboratories may set their own. The laboratory used by SureHire closely follows the recommended guidelines proposed in the 2004 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Will prescription medications produce positive results?

A report will be sent to the Medical Review Officer (MRO) identifying all drugs detected by the laboratory. The MRO will review the report and contact the donor within 72 hours, using the information provided on the Chain of Custody form. The MRO will confirm any prescriptions to determine whether the positive drug screen was due to legitimate prescription drug use, or if it was due to illegal drug use or prescription drug abuse.

If there are no prescriptions, or if the MRO is unable to make contact with the donor within 72 hours, the results will be reported as positive.

Drug testing is a common precautionary process in many industries where there is a significant safety risk. Your employer is responsible for maintaining a safe working environment for all employees, including you.

Use of illegal drugs or abuse of prescriptions can result in workers who are inefficient, slow to react to unexpected threats or unable to perform their duties safely. Your employer is legally obligated to prevent these kind of risks.

What to Expect

Before the Test

Upon entering the facility, you will first be required to present some form of government-issued photo identification when you come in for your appointment. If you are coming in for a private appointment, payment must be made via credit card while booking your appointment over the phone. You may also have the option to pay via credit card at any Power Centre facility in Alberta only.

Once your ID is verified, you will receive paperwork to fill out. This paperwork includes an authorization allowing SureHire to perform the test and provide the results to your employer/potential employer. If you are coming in for a private test, the form will have a spot where you can indicate where you would like the results to be sent. You will also have a short form to fill out indicating your contact information and any prescription or over the counter drugs that you are currently using.

Once your paperwork is submitted, you must not leave the testing facility until testing is complete. If you choose to leave the testing facility, it will be indicated as a refusal to test and considered a fail.

During the Test

A SureHire technician will take a small sample from you by cutting your hair with scissors as close to the root as possible. The hair is ordinarily taken from the crown of the head, but it can be collected from other areas if you have hair loss in that area.

For the standard 90 day timeframe, we will need to collect 90-150 strands of hair, which would fill a small straw. This small amount of cut hair won't be noticeable.

Know Your Rights

If your sample tests positive for drug use, you will be contacted by a Medical Review Officer (MRO). The MRO will contact you with the information you put down on your intake form. Ensure that this information is correct. It is the responsibility of the MRO to determine whether the positive drug screen was due to legitimate prescription drug use, illegal drug use or prescription drug misuse.

FAQ

What is the minimum amount of hair required?

  • For head hair, the minimum length required is 0.5 inches and 270-390 strands (enough to fill 3 straws). This will provide an approximate 30 day results time frame.

Can body hair be tested?

Body hair can be tested if the donor does not have sufficient head hair. However, body hair testing is not usually recommended for the following reasons:

  • Body hair is dormant and cannot provide an exact time frame for results.
  • Drug metabolites will only be detected in the hair if the drug was used while hair was growing.
  • Body hair is tested at its full length and results in an approximate 1 year time frame that cannot be broken down into smaller segments.

If body hair is used, it can be taken from the legs, arms, chest, back and armpits in the amount equivalent to the size of a cotton ball. Facial hair is not tested as it grows too quickly and does not provide accurate results.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE DONOR ARRIVES AT THE APPOINTMENT WITH INSUFFICIENT HAIR FOR THE REQUESTED TIME FRAME?

Recommended: donor/recruiter can decide not to complete hair testing and re-book once the hair has grown to the required length. Full testing rate will apply. 

*Please note this is the only option for court ordered testing. If hair is insufficient, no collection will occur – full rates apply.

SureHire can collect head hair and ask the laboratory to test the full length even though it will not meet the desired time frame.

Warning: This option may result in a false negative, meaning it may not pick up on drug use within the time frame requested. Cost of testing remains the same.

Donor/recruiter can decide to proceed with body hair collection. Limitations of body hair testing must be thoroughly explained and understood prior to collection.

Warning: time frame results is approximately one year and may produce a positive result that may not have presented in the originally requested time frame. Cost of testing remains the same.

How long does it take to receive results?

Results typically take 7-10 business days.

Result turnaround times may vary due to shipping delays, confirmation testing and MRO process (up to 72 hours to make contact with donor).

CAN ANONYMOUS HAIR TESTING BE COMPLETED (EX. HAIR TAKEN FROM A BRUSH)?

No, hair must be collected directly from the donor by a certified collector. All donors are required to sign a Chain of Custody, which is a legally binding document stating that the sample is in fact from the donor and that the donor authorizes the lab to analyze it.

CAN SECOND HAND CONTAMINATION OR EXTERNAL EXPOSURE TO DRUGS AFFECT THE TEST RESULTS?

No. The hair sample is tested for the metabolite of the drug, which can only be detected inside the hair follicle once the drug has been ingested. Upon receiving the hair sample, the laboratory performs a wash procedure prior to testing to remove possible external contamination.

WILL PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS PRODUCE POSITIVE RESULTS?

A report will be sent to the Medical Review Officer (MRO) identifying all drugs detected by the laboratory. The MRO will review the report and contact the donor within 72 hours, using the information provided on the Chain of Custody form. The MRO will confirm any prescriptions to determine whether the positive drug screen was due to legitimate prescription drug use, or if it was due to illegal drug use or prescription drug abuse.

If there are no prescriptions, or if the MRO is unable to make contact with the donor within 72 hours, the results will be reported as positive.

WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR COURT ORDERED TESTING?

A copy of the filed court order must be provided to SureHire at the time of booking an appointment. 

*Written agreements between two people that are not signed by a judge are not considered court documents.

In order to schedule a court ordered hair test, the following information should be provided on the court order:

*SureHire may request an amendment to the court order if adequate information in not provided.

  • Names of both parties and who is required to provide the hair sample
  • Who has access to schedule the testing appointment
  • Who will be paying for the hair test
  • Type of testing required

The time frame must be specified:

  • 30 days
  • 60 days
  • 90 days
  • 6 months
  • 1 year

The drug testing panel must be specified:

  • Hair Lab 5 Panel
  • Hair Lab 5 Panel – Extended Opiates

Who is authorized to receive test results:

  • Donor
  • Donor’s lawyer
  • Other party
  • Other party’s lawyer

Who is not authorized to receive test results:

*Please be aware that in order to protect the donor’s privacy, information will be released only to those outlined in the court order. If no information is outlined, only the donor will have access to their appointment and result information.

*SureHire will not provide hair drug testing to anyone under the age of 18 unless specified by a court order.

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