Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts: Hair Drug Test Collections

by Nicole Jupe on August 4, 2017

How much hair is needed for a drug test?Question: How much hair is needed for a drug test?

Rumors abound about exactly how much hair is snipped for a hair drug test. Some imagine they will suffer with a choppy, bad haircut or bald spot. Others fear they will lose their precious locks and require a hat wherever they go. In fact, quite the opposite is true if an individual visits a site with trained, professional collectors. At these drug test collection sites, the collector will only cut the small, specific amount of hair needed for the laboratory to perform the test. The hair is typically cut from the crown of the back of the head in a manner where it will not be as noticeable.

At Quest Diagnostics, our scientific experts have defined precise measurements for a hair test specimen collection. The amount of hair needed for a hair drug is approximately 100 milligrams made up of the first 1-½ inches from the root end. Since the weight of hair varies by individual and because drug testing collectors do not have access to highly sensitive weighing scales, it is easier to visualize the required quantity in terms of the width or diameter of the hair specimen collected.

If the hair is more than four inches long, the laboratory requires approximately 120 strands. If placed in a bundle this quantity of hair would resemble the circumference of a pencil; or if laid flat, would be approximately 1 centimeter in width. It is critical that the root ends of the cut hair are aligned and placed with the root ends extending about ¼ inch beyond the pointed portion of the arrow formed by the foil in the Quest collection kit. In order to approximate time of drug use (up to 90 days), the lab will cut and use about 1½ inches from the root end. If the collected hair is shorter than four inches, but longer than a ½ inch, additional strands of hair (in addition to the first 120 strands), or a larger quantity of hair is required to ensure an adequate amount of hair is received to complete testing. If the hair is curly, root ends do not have to be kept aligned and the hair sample size should resemble the size of a standard cotton ball.

If the donor has no head hair or hair shorter than ½ inch long, the collector may use chest, underarm, leg, or facial hair—in that order of preference. The amount collected should resemble a standard cotton ball. The collector should always note the source of the hair sample on the hair collection envelope. This will aid in a more accurate interpretation of the drug test result. If body hair is collected, the collector must make sure to collect as much hair as possible. Body hair is usually lighter in weight and more hair is needed for testing.

These detailed collection protocols should reassure donors that only a minimal amount of hair is cut for a drug screening and stress the importance of a trained collector.

Visit our Hair Testing FAQs for more frequently asked questions about hair testing.

For more information about drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.

Ask the Experts: Drug Testing Cutoffs

by Nicole Jupe on July 18, 2017

Question: Can you explain cutoff levels for laboratory-based drug testing?

In workplace drug testing, the industry standard process involves two-tiered testing – an initial screen on one portion of the specimen, followed by a confirmatory test on a second portion of the original specimen. The initial test is designed to separate negative specimens from further consideration. The confirmatory test uses definitive methods, such as chromatography-mass spectrometry (e.g., GC-MS, LC-MS/MS), that specifically identify and quantify the drug/metabolite in the specimen. Drug testing detects the presence of drugs and drug metabolites using cutoff levels to determine whether a specimen tests positive or negative for the use of a specific drug.

Cutoff levels are expressed in nanograms (ng) per milliliter (mL) for urine and oral fluid testing or picograms (pg) per milligram (mg) for hair testing. It is important to select a specimen type and cutoff level based on the desired window of detection and any regulatory requirements. Only when a drug or drug metabolite is identified at a concentration equal to or above the administrative cutoff is a specimen reported by the laboratory as positive. Consequently, a negative drug test does not necessarily mean that no drug is present. While that may be the case, other possible interpretations are that a drug was present below the cutoff or the testing panel did not include the drug the individual was using.

Cutoff levels for federally-regulated drug testing programs are established based on mandatory guidelines set by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) rule 49 CFR Part 40 harmonizes with HHS and describes the required procedures for conducting drug and alcohol testing for the federally-regulated transportation industry. Many non-regulated employers mirror the cutoff levels established by the government while others customize their drug testing panels to be more sensitive to certain drugs based upon their program needs and unique workforce.

Download our Complete Line of Drug Testing Solutions to see the most commonly ordered non-regulated drug test panels and their cutoff levels.

Take our Drug Testing Needs Assessment to evaluate the benefits of different solutions for your program goals.

For more information about drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.

Ask the Experts: Six Sigma Quality

October 18, 2016Ask the Experts

Question: What is Six Sigma? Six Sigma is defined by the Council for Six Sigma Certification as “a set of business tools, statistical theory, and quality control knowledge that helps improve your business procedures. A Six Sigma process is expected to be free of defects with no more than 3.4 defective defects per million opportunities (DPMO).” […]

Read the full article →

Ask the Experts: Drug Test Collection Quality

September 30, 2016Collections

Question: With thousands of collectors across the U.S., how does Quest Diagnostics help ensure the quality of each drug test collection? As one of the first steps in the drug testing process, collections help build the foundation that enables our laboratories to operate as efficiently as they do. As such, it is imperative that we […]

Read the full article →

Ask the Experts: Drug Test Collection Site Options

July 26, 2016Collections

Question: With three types of drug test collection sites and thousands of locations, how do employers know which location best meets their needs? Our drug test collection site network consists of more than 8,000 locations across the U.S. This vast geographical coverage helps provide a convenient experience for our employer customers and their donors. That […]

Read the full article →

Ask the Experts: Effects of Hair Treatments on Drug Test Results

June 27, 2016Hair testing

Question: Can products and treatments affect hair drug test results?  Some employers who use hair testing as part of their workplace drug testing program wonder if hair products – like shampoos, sprays, gels, coloring, bleaching, and perming – can have an impact on their test results. We asked Dr. Barry Sample, Director of Science and […]

Read the full article →

Ask the Experts: Marijuana Legalization and Workplace Drug Testing

April 1, 2015Drug Testing

Question: Does marijuana “legalization” affect workplace drug testing? 23 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and five of these jurisdictions – Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and D.C. – have legalized marijuana for recreational use. However, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug – meaning […]

Read the full article →

Ask the Experts: Under the Influence

September 8, 2014Oral Fluid testing

Question: Marijuana legislation is impacting the state in which I run my business. I’ve heard that oral fluid is the best drug test specimen type for determining whether an employee is under the influence of drugs – particularly marijuana – while they’re at work. Is this true? This is a newly emerging and complex issue that is most […]

Read the full article →

Ask the Experts: Urine – The ‘Gold Standard’ of Drug Testing

August 28, 2014Urine testing

Question: Why is urine testing the most frequently used method for drug testing? Businesses that drug test their applicants and employees do so to minimize their exposure to the risks of employee drug use. While all drug test specimen types – urine, oral fluid and hair – have their advantages, urine drug testing is by […]

Read the full article →

Ask the Experts: Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing

July 17, 2014Ask the Experts

Question: If I suspect my employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work, what can I do? Employers who implement pre-employment drug testing programs do so to protect their businesses from the impact of drug abuse before making hiring decisions. As a result, they help to strengthen the integrity of their workplace […]

Read the full article →