Should You Spring For Hair Analysis?

Drug testing is often thought of as including urine and blood testing, but there is another type of test that could benefit your company when you run employee drug testing. Hair analysis is exactly what it sounds like: several hairs are cut from the person's head and then analyzed for several different substances. When people take drugs, especially on a chronic, long-term basis, residue from the drug use does show up in hair as it grows out. Like any testing method, hair analysis does have some drawbacks, but it has some important advantages, too.


One of the reasons companies don't spring for hair analysis that often is the cost. It tends to be one of the pricier tests. However, it's also harder to beat, resulting in better data and, eventually, better savings on the job because you won't have hidden drug problems contributing to accidents or absenteeism.

If someone takes a urine test, they can sneak synthetic urine (this is real) into the stall. The hair, though, is cut by a lab tech directly off the person's head. So the initial cost might be more, but the potential long-term savings look good.

Chronic Use

Hair analysis tracks long-term use, making it more likely to catch drug use even if the person has abstained in an effort to beat the test. For example, if someone stops smoking pot for several weeks in an attempt to pass the test, the hair analysis may still catch the prior use. The drawbacks here are that someone could test positive even if they had made an honest effort to stop taking drugs for the sake of being sober, and if a person can abstain long enough, all they have to do is cut their hair to get rid of what grew during the time of drug use.

Ease of Use

Hair analysis is incredibly easy for a person to undergo as long as they have hair. The tech snips off a lock of hair, and that's it. No fumbling and rushing in a bathroom to get a urine sample, and no needles like in a blood sample. The only issue here is if you have to test someone who is bald and who does not have a beard or mustache.

Alcohol Use

One major drawback to hair analysis is that it can't pick up on alcohol use. Alcohol clears out of the body relatively quickly, so most drug tests would have the same issue. You'd have to test with a breathalyzer or blood test the day the person had drunk something.

Hair analysis can be a valuable tool for determining if your job applicant or employee is a chronic drug user. Combined with other types of drug tests, you can get a good picture of how clean your workforce is.