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Hair Testing FAQ

1. What is hair drug testing?
Since hair growth is fed by the bloodstream, the ingestion of drugs of abuse is revealed by analyzing a small sample of hair. Our testing method measures the drug molecules embedded inside the hair shaft, eliminating external contamination as a source of a positive test result. Hair testing results cannot be significantly altered with shampoos or other external chemicals.


2. What drugs can Omega test for with hair?
Cocaine, marijuana, opiates (Codeine, Morphine & 6-MAM Heroin Metabolite), Amphetamines (Methamphetamine & Ecstasy), and phencyclidine (PCP). These five drug classes are mandated for testing by the Federal Government. Omega Laboratories also offers an Extended Opiates panel, which can be added to a standard test, and includes Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Hydromorphone.


3. What time period does hair testing cover?
For head hair, Omega?s standard window of detection is 90 days. However, longer and shorter timeframes are possible. Body hair samples are noted as an approximately 12 month timeframe.


4. How soon after use can a drug be detected in hair?
It takes approximately 7-10 days from the time of drug use for the effected hair to grow above the scalp. Body hair growth rates are generally slower and cannot be utilized to determine a specific timeframe of drug use.


5. How does hair testing compare to urinalysis?

The primary differences are

1) wider window of detection

2) inability to tamper with the test

Cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates and PCP are rapidly excreted and usually undetectable in urine 72 hours after use. The detection period for hair is limited only by the length of the hair sample and is approximately 90 days for a standard test.

Additional advantages include non-intrusive collection procedures.

The combination of an increased window of detection and resistance to evasion makes Hair Testing far more effective than urinalysis in effectively identifying drug users.

6. How effective is Hair Testing in detecting drug users?
In side-by-side comparison studies with urinalysis, hair drug testing has uncovered significantly more drug use. In two independent studies hair drug testing uncovered 4 to 8 times as many drug users as urinalysis.


7. How much hair is needed?
A standard test with GC/MS, GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS confirmation requires 60+ milligrams of hair or approximately 90 to 120 strands. The thickness of different types of head hair (thick coarse vs. thinning fine) is the reason for this variation.


8. Can tests be run on people with little or no hair?
Hair can be collected from several head locations and combined to obtain the required amount of hair. In addition, body hair may be used as a substitute to head hair. In the rare case where no hair is collectable, oral fluid or urine testing may be utilized.


9. Can Hair be effected by cross-reacting substances such as over-the-counter medications?
Enzyme-immunoassay antibodies (EIA), similar to those used to test urine, are used for the initial screening test for drugs of abuse in hair; therefore the potential for substances such as over-the-counter medications to cause a false positive screening result does exist. To eliminate the possibility of reporting a false-positive due to cross-reactivity, Omega confirms all positive results by GC/MS, GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS.


10. What methodology do you employ?
Hair samples are first screened in our laboratory using enzyme immunoassay (EIA) technology, which has been proven reliable for routine drug testing. Any samples that test positive in the screening process are then subjected to GC/MS, GC/MS/MC, or LC/MS/MS confirmation testing. Tandem "MS", as it is called, provides the most sensitive fingerprint of the drug target available.


11. How does Omega Laboratories establish its cut-off levels?
Omega follows the cut-off levels generally accepted industry-wide. These levels are based in part by minimum detection levels for GC/MS, GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS confirmation.


12. What is the turnaround time?
Samples received by Omega Laboratories will report out within 1-3 business days.


13. Is Omega Laboratories' internal chain-of-custody comparable to a urinalysis laboratory test procedure?
Omega's internal chain-of-custody is modeled after Federal guidelines (SAMHSA) as well as other accredited agencies (CAP).


14. How long are test reports kept on file?
Test reports are retained for a period of two years or as mandated by law.


15. What is done with the excess hair that is not tested?
The hair not used from the time period being tested (i.e. three months equals 3.9 cm) is stored in the chain-of-custody sample acquisition pouch. Hair is stored for a one year period.


16. What experience does Omega Laboratories have providing Expert Witness Testimony?
Omega Laboratories' forensic experts have qualified as expert witnesses in 29 states for over 250 civil, criminal, and Superior Court trials.


17. Can a hair test be beaten?
At this time there are no known successful adulterants for hair tests. Since hair tests analyze the drugs inside the hair shaft, external contaminants/chemicals have no effect.


18. How is the data reported?
As with all Omega testing, results are reported to the designated party and Medical Review Officer, if appropriate. This may be done via the Omega Extranet, fax or electronic data exchange of test results.


19. Does hair color effect results?
Hair color is determined by the amount of melanin in the hair. It has been shown experimentally, through actual hair samples, as well as determined in court that hair color has no significant impact on results.


20. How fast does head hair grow?
Studies indicate that head hair grows on the average approximately 1.3 cm (or 1/2 inch) per month.


21. What is the shortest time period that can be accurately evaluated?
The minimum time period is approximately two weeks (1/4 inch). Body hair can be used if head hair is too short for a test. If body hair is used the timeframe represented by the test is approximately one year, due to different growth patterns in body hair.


22. Does body hair give the same type of results as head hair?
Yes, body hair can be used to test for the five standard drug classes, though body hair growth patterns are different than head hair. Most body hair is replaced within approximately one year. This means a test done with body hair will be reported as drug usage during approximately a one year timeframe.


23. Can hair collected from a brush be used?
Yes, but the test will be reported as having an "anonymous" donor. We cannot attribute the sample to any specific person and we cannot determine the timeframe of the test, so the test result is not legally defensible.


24. Can external exposure to drugs (marijuana smoke, crack smoke, etc.) have an effect on the Hair Test results?
To rule out the possibility of external contamination, Omega?s testing (where appropriate) looks for both the parent & metabolite (bi-product) of drug usage. For marijuana analysis, Omega detects only the metabolite (THC-COOH). This metabolite is only produced by the body and cannot be an environmental contaminant.


25. What other drugs are available to be tested in hair analysis?
Currently, nicotine, methadone, simple benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants assays and mescaline have been detected in hair. However, many details such as cutoff levels and dose response relationships have not yet been established for these compounds. These assays are in the Research and Development process.




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