• 10-11-2010: The Star South Africa


    Hair holds secrets to drug usage

    October 11 2010 at 02:44pm
    By Thandi Skade


    A small clump of hair smaller than the width of a pencil. This is all a lab technician needs to determine specific drugs taken and the frequency of drug usage for up to 90 days.

    Hair drug-testing technology has been used abroad for years. The HairConfirm drug test kit, developed by US biotech company Confirm BioSciences, was launched on Wednesday through Drug Detection International (DDI).

    DDI director Riaan de Vries described the test as “revolutionary” for corporates, schools and parents who want to know if someone is using drugs.

    “It’s revolutionary because it breaks through all the lies and denial, as it gives you a full report of exactly which type of drug a person is using and, more importantly, the volume of drugs taken, which we can then determine whether it’s low use (occasional), medium use (a few days a week) or high use (every day). It’s also great for the courts and law enforcement agencies as a tool to prosecute users,” he said.

    HairConfirm is available in two test kits: one that tests seven illegal drugs, namely dagga, cocaine, crack cocaine, opiates, methamphetamines, PCP and ecstasy, while a second tests for the seven drug types plus five prescription drugs: Vicodin, Lorcet, OxyContin, Percocet and Dilaudid.

    So how does it work? De Vries explained that drugs ingested into the body are circulated through the bloodstream, which “feeds” developing hair follicles. Traces of the drug taken are deposited into the hair follicle and become trapped in the hair shaft (the part of hair above the scalp).

    HairConfirm tests 4cm and between 90 and 120 strands of hair sample, based on an average monthly growth rate of 1.2cm, to determine a 90-day drug-use history.

    Unlike in the US, De Vries added, samples would be collected on-site by a tester and placed in collection foil, which is then placed in a hair specimen envelope that is sealed with a security label.

    The envelope is then placed in a clear pouch that is sealed and then shipped to a Confirm BioSciences lab – accredited by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments – in the US for analysis.

    A person’s identity is safeguarded with the use of a unique specimen identity number and password rather than a name.

    It will take 10 workdays to receive the results, and one can track the test’s progress online.

    The test will set one back around R1 400, which De Vries said was comparable to urine tests conducted in a lab that cost around R2 000, but would only detect 10 days’ drug usage.

    “It’s cheat proof… and the only way to get away with it is to shave your hair or keep it seriously short,” he said.

    Commentators say Britney Spears’s 2007 “meltdown”, which saw the pop princess shave her iconic blonde locks – wasn’t actually a meltdown, but a desperate attempt to avoid being drug-tested.

    For more information, go to www.drugdetection.com and www.hairconfirm.com



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    Categories: HairConfirm In the News

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