Another common method of drug testing used by Texas courts during divorce matters and custody matters is hair testing. Generally, a 5-panel hair test is conducted by the testing facility unless other drugs are specifically requested to be tested. 

A 5-panel hair test will test for use of the following substances:

1.     Cocaine;

2.     Methamphetamines, amphetamines, ecstasy;

3.     Heroin, morphine, codeine;

4.     PCP; and

5.     Marijuana.

The main difference between a urinalysis drug test and a hair test is that a hair test can test for a longer period of use. Hair tests are generally used to test for use with someone that you believe has used drugs for a longer period of time rather than occasional use. Generally, a standard head hair test can detect use for 90 days or 1.5 inches of hair closest to the scalp. Therefore, there are people that can test negative on a urinalysis drug screen that generally tests for use up to 5 days for most illegal drugs and prescriptions and 30-40 days for marijuana, but will test positive on a hair test.   

Just like there are myths about how to “beat” a urinalysis drug test there are also myths regarding how to “beat” a hair test as well. A common method of attempting to avoid having to take a hair test is to shave off your head hair, cut your hair extremely short, and/or to color or bleach your hair prior to submitting to a hair test. It is important to be aware that if you shave and/or cut your head hair, then your body hair can be tested instead. Head hair generally tests for use for 3 months. The growth rate of the head hair is approximately ½ inch per month. Body hair however can test for use from 7 to 12 months because the rate of growth for body hair is much slower, and then the hair is dormant. So, it is not wise to cut or shave your head hair in an attempt to avoid a hair test because testing the body hair is likely the next alternative, which can detect use for a much longer time period.         

A common method of attempting to “beat” a hair test is to use shampoos that claim to reduce or remove any signs of drug use from the hair and/or to bleach and/or color your hair prior to a test. It is important to note that some of the shampoos can reduce the level of drugs in your hair, but they generally do not reduce the level enough to test negative. Coloring and/or bleaching your hair can reduce the level of drugs in your hair, but will not reduce the level enough for you to pass a hair test.

Some interesting things to be aware of when facing a hair test:

  • On average it takes roughly 100-150 strands of head hair to perform a test.
  • Marijuana is more difficult, but not impossible to detect in a hair test.
  • If your hair does test positive in the initial test, the hair is tested again to confirm the initial positive by confirming with another methodology.

Next week I will discuss part III of a IV part series. Next week will focus on nail testing.