Hair follicle drug testing hasn’t been a common choice for employee drug testing. In fact, it is the least likely candidate in the running. Only 7% of employers use the hair follicle test for employee drug screening. However, that statistic is likely to rise very soon.

The DOT (Department of Transportation) proposed changing the standard drug testing method for all safety-sensitive employees from the urine test to the hair follicle test. Expect it to go into effect as soon as it has passed through the chain of command.

Consequently, if trends continue, employers that aren’t mandated will soon follow suit. Currently, urine tests are performed on 90% of employees required to take drug tests for work.

Manufacturers of the hair follicle tests may soon see a boon in revenue!

Administering the test

Before any drug test, employees complete an identification process. Next, the technician snips a small section of the hair as close to the scalp as possible using scissors. The sample is taken from an inconspicuous area for obvious reasons. The technician places it in a bag. The employee completes the test in a matter of minutes, freeing them to return to work.

Prior to testing, technicians cut the hair to the length of one and a half inches discarding the remaining hair.

Employers receive results within a week.

The range of panels

This method detects all manner of drugs or alcohol in a person’s hair. Employers most often choose the standard 5 panel test. The drugs included in this test are amphetamines, opiates, marijuana, PCP (phencyclidine), and cocaine. The test also picks up on Ecstasy, heroin, and methamphetamine. It doesn’t find synthetic opioids, however. You can easily add these medications if the thought of employee impairment is a concern.

The panel spectrum ranges though. There are 9, 10, and 12 panel tests available, as well. You can choose the standard version or customize them to meet your specific need.

Advantages of using this test

Hair follicle drug testing is the least intrusive, albeit most convenient, drug test on the market. There is no need for privacy, meaning it can be administered anywhere. And, we haven’t even mentioned the 90-day detection window! That’s right. The hair follicle test detects any drug or alcohol use for a 90-day period.


All of these facts combined make the two cons that we can come up with little concern. Hair follicle drug testing is the most expensive employee drug test on the market and the results take about a week.

It is worth taking a second look at the hair follicle drug test. In view of the impending DOT regulation change, employers are sure to be doing so.

235 replies on “How Does Hair Follicle Drug Testing Work?”

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