• Hair Vs. Urine – Drug Testing

    A comparative analysis:

    Several techniques have been developed in the last few decades to trace the ever increasing drug abuse. Amongst all these different drug testing techniques, two methods have emerged rapidly & have been accepted widely across the globe. These two methods are – Urine Drug Testing & Hair Drug Testing.

    Urine Drug Testing has been proved to be the simplest drug testing technique, offering benefits of being inexpensive and less intrusive than other test techniques, like Blood Drug Testing. 

    • This technique has several advantages:
    • It is one the most economical drug testing methods with least working cost.
    • This method is fairly accurate & is referred to as "the gold standard".
    • It can be carried out easily at home or office, although under guidance & with lab verifications for accurate results.
    • Detect drug use primarily within last one or two weeks at the most.


    But, this technique has several "loopholes" & disadvantages, like: 

    • This technique can be "fooled" easily simply by sample adulteration or substitution.
    • It is not possible to detect the immediate drug abuse i.e. if the drugs have been taken within 0-3 hours from taking the test; it is quite likely that the drugs would not show up in the urine!
    • This technique is often integrated with temperature tests to insure sample integrity as the sample is susceptible to degrade in "lukewarm" urine!
    • Also, this technique is considered as an intrusive method of testing.


    Besides all these advantages, urine drug testing still offers less when compared with the other advanced techniques, which are available at a little higher working cost. A technique called Hair Drug Testing has been proven to be the best alternative for the Urine Drug Testing.

    The Hair Drug Testing method offers quite a lot of advantages, like: 

    • It can detect the drugs/metabolites taken within 90 days i.e. even the drugs taken long way back can be detected with ease which is not possible with urine tests which have a narrow range of detection. With specialty Hair testing, drugs taken even within 6 months can be detected!
    • This technique is far more sensitive than urine drug testing & tests positive more than twice as often as a urine test. This fact is supported by a recent study in which out of 1823 paired hair and urine samples, only 57 urine samples tested positive for drugs of abuse; while 124 hair samples from the same group tested positive!
    • The results are not much affected by the short periods of abstinence from drugs.
    • This technique can even be used to determine the drug usage patterns i.e. to determine when the drugs were taken and when they were discontinued. If a drug fails to migrate along the shaft, a relative long hair segment can be used to draw comparative results, to find when the drug was used, for how long and if its use was discontinued during this period!
    • This technique has been reported to be able to reliably differentiate between the opiate and poppy seed use. 
    • Many Hair tests follow the NIDA 5, CLIA and SAMSHA guidelines.
    • A wide array of chemicals/drugs like Cannabis, Ecstasy/MDMA, Cocaine, Opiates, Methamphetamine, Amphetamine, Phencyclidine (PCP), Benzodiazepines & barbiturates can be easily identified using Hair Test.
    • This is considered as a relatively un-intrusive method of drug testing.


    Besides its numerous advantages, this technique does have certain drawbacks: 

    • Currently this technique is several times more expensive than urine tests (~$65-150).
    • This technique can not be carried out just with a single hair, hence requires a pool of sample hairs.


    Still, the advantages clearly take over these minor shortcomings & thus, Hair Drug Testing methods are usually preferred in the forensic studies, doping tests and for various other studies related to detection of drugs in the body!


    Categories: Drug Testing for a Drug-Free Home

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