• 12-08-2008: The Baltimore Examiner

    New at-home drug test uses hair sample

    The Baltimore Examier 

    By Sara Michael
    Examiner Staff Writer 12/8/08

    A new diagnostic kit allows parents to use their teen’s hair to test for drug use, but some local advocates raise doubts about the effectiveness of take-home kits.

    "I don’t think they have been major sellers," drug addiction specialist Michael Gimbel said of take-home drug test kits, adding many parents don’t always trust the results when samples are sent to labs through the mail.

    "We have always encouraged parents to go to their physician and get it done."

    California-based Confirm Biosciences has developed a home-based hair test called HairConfirm, which can detect drug and prescription medication use for up to 90 days.

    The lab also can determine the amount of drug use and provides a chart that translates whether the use is recreational or more habitual, said Janet Russell, spokeswoman for Confirm Biosciences.

    "The conversation you will have with that person or the prevention methods will vary" based on the results, she said.

    Testing hair can reveal drug use within the past three months, whereas urine tests usually only detect use within the past three to five days, Russell said.

    The product, available online through cvs.com or drugstore.com, costs $65 or $90, depending on how many drugs it tests for. The samples are sent to an accredited lab, and results can be obtained online or over the phone, Russell said.

    Hair tests do have an advantage over urine tests, because drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine leave the system quickly, said Gimbel, who now directs a steroid awareness campaign at St. Joseph Medical Center.

    "With hair testing, you are looking at a window of 90 days," he said. "That makes it a much more effective method."

    However, drug testing is very complex, and parents should be sure the proper tests and techniques are used, said Eileen Dewey, director and owner of the Columbia Addictions Center.

    "It’s really a science," she said, adding she would rather parents go to a substance abuse facility where staff is trained and familiar with the tests.

    Hair tests are easier to collect than other samples, said Erin Artigiani, deputy director of policy and government affairs for the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland.

    "But it would never replace actually sitting down and talking with your child," she said.

    Gimbel also cautioned that parents should be prepared for the results, regardless of the test used.

    "If it’s positive, what are you going to do? How are you going to handle it?" he asked. "You need to be ready to take the proper action."


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    Categories: HairConfirm In the News

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