Research has shown that a hair drug test is the fastest growing method of drug screening in the U.S. They are considered to be more accurate than both mouth swab and urine tests, which not too long ago were the most common method of testing. It can take about five days for cannabis to show up in your hair, but it can continue to be detectable in a hair follicle drug test for several months.
It is interesting to note that back in 2015, as many as 7% of American employees failed their hair follicle test because of marijuana, according to Quest data. Even more surprising, these were not one-off, irregular smokers who had been caught by bad luck or bad timing. Those who fail the hair drug test are typically habitual users. Essentially, this is the purpose of the hair follicle test, to detect regular cannabis use.
The presence of cannabis (and any other substance) in your hair can be understood by one principle; when marijuana is ingested into your body, it circulates through the bloodstream and into your urine, saliva, blood, and hair follicles via the bloodstream. The drug metabolites that enter into your hair follicles are then trapped in the hair structure as it starts to grow out. Hair grows at a rate of approximately 0.5 inches per month, and drug testing labs will typically test for toxic metabolites that are trapped in the shaft core.
The length of your hair sample can measure historical drug use, but it’s not possible to determine a specific timeline of usage. In short, a hair follicle test cannot tell the difference between THC metabolites that were introduced two weeks ago from ones that were introduced two days ago.
Now, this may sound a little confusing, so let’s break it down a little. The body reacts to THC and other cannabinoids in a complex way. As a result, these cannabinoids and their metabolic byproducts will end up scattered in various systems throughout the body. Cannabis ends up in your hair via your bloodstream, and while it only stays there for a very short time (usually only as long as you are high), signs of weed use can be detected in your hair for a significantly longer time.
Before the body rapidly breaks down the cannabinoids in the blood, they will bind to the sheath of tissue and cells surrounding the root of your hair. This initially happens underneath the surface of your scalp, but eventually, the cannabinoids will become incorporated into the follicle and ultimately the hair strand itself. Finally, after about five to ten days, the “weed-infused hair” pops out the top of your head. This is why it’s not easy to cheat a hair follicle drug test.
Hair samples are used because the drugs in the bloodstream will bind to hair follicles underneath the scalp. It generally takes five to ten days for the hair that contains the drugs to reach the scalp’s surface. The standard hair sample is 1.5 inches from the scalp, and since head hair grows at an average rate of half an inch per month, we can estimate that 1.5 inches of hair would give results over three months.
So why are more institutions opting for the hair follicle test over other methods? Well, there are many reasons for this. One of the most noteworthy is that the hair follicle tests are known to give more accurate and precise results, as opposed to urine or oral swab tests. Secondly, these tests can detect a longer history of substance abuse when compared to other tests. And lastly, it’s thought that beating a hair follicle test is a lot more challenging than other tests.
However, the good news is that it’s not impossible to pass, especially if you use a top-ranking product.
How to Pass a Hair Drug Test
If you are a regular smoker and a hair follicle testing is thrown your way at the last minute, there’s not much you can do.
The good news, however, is that if you’ve only smoked recently, you have little to worry about since the cannabis will only show up in your hair five to ten days after consumption. Also, if you’ve only smoked a couple of times in the last 90 days, there is a lower chance of marijuana being detected. Although the hair follicle drug test is relatively sensitive, only regular weed users that ingest lots of THC should be concerned about triggering a positive result.
In short, passing a hair drug test is all in the timing. If you are aware of an upcoming drug test, you could always abstain from cannabis for the time being.
As we have already mentioned, passing a hair drug test is not an easy task. The very moment you find out that you’ll be partaking in a follicle test, you should stop using cannabis right away. It’s also essential to avoid all skin-to-skin contact with anybody who consumes cannabis. There is always the risk that this type of contact could transfer weed metabolites onto the hair’s follicles.
Detoxing the Hair
Although it is by no means foolproof and demands some arduous work, one of the methods that you could try is detoxing the hair. The first thing you can do is get your hands on three different shampoos, each of which will serve a different purpose in your detox regime. These shampoos consist of Zydot Ultra-Clean shampoo, Neutrogena T/Sal, and Old Style Aloe Toxin Rid Shampoo.
The Zydot package contains packets of specially formulated conditioner and purifier. The T/Sal includes salicylic acid, which should help remove all dirt and grease buildup in your hair. Lastly, the Aloe Toxin Rid performs the real detoxifying functions that should eliminate pollutants, medicines, and other stressors from the hair.
- Start by massaging either distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar across your hair and scalp. This loosens the oil in your hair. Wait for about 10-15 minutes before applying the T/Sal on the scalp (with the vinegar still in there).
- Now place a plastic shower cap over your hair and wait for about thirty minutes before carefully rinsing the hair.
- Next, you will need to apply the Aloe Toxin Rid detox. You can wash your hair with this shampoo at least twice.
- Lastly, put the smallest amount of Zydot onto your hair, and massage it across the scalp. Then rinse it immediately.
- The aftercare is also quite important, so make sure to use your regular conditioner. It’s essential to leave the conditioner on your hair for at least an hour and then carefully rinse it out.
Keep in mind that detoxing the hair can cause serious damage, even if just temporarily. It will be necessary to spend a great deal of time re-nourishing, hydrating, and conditioning your hair after your detox routine.
In a last-ditch effort to pass a hair test for drugs, you could consider using a hairpiece or hair extension. The only way this would work is if the technician takes a sample of hair that is THC-free. In other words, fake hair. There is, however, no guarantee that they wouldn’t get a piece of your actual hair.
There is no doubt that cheating a hair follicle drug test requires a great deal of creativity and a lot of luck. If you’re not willing to give up your weed regime for a period of time, you best start thinking of some creative ways to get yourself out of taking the test.
How Does a Hair Follicle Drug Test Work?
There is a growing interest to replace urine drug testing programs with 90-day hair analysis screenings. Hair testing has been shown to stop twice as many drug users at the door before they are employed. Also, urine is considered more susceptible to tampering, using adulteration, hydration, and substitution. As we’ve mentioned above, hair analysis is thought to pose a much greater challenge to applicants who want to cheat the drug test.
Here are a few reasons that hair analysis is thought to be a more effective means of drug testing:
- The applicant cannot tamper with hair by placing anything else in or on the sample while it’s in the specimen collection area.
- The applicant can’t eat or drink anything that will dilute a hair sample.
- Generally speaking, shaving or dying the hair will not help for regular users. Most labs test for a relatively low amount of THC, so stripping the hair won’t remove enough of the substance.
When compared to urine testing, the marijuana hair test is a simple and non-intrusive process. The institution conducting the test should also always consider a few important things, which include the following:
- They should always have enough hair to repeat the test if necessary.
- If the hair is over 1.5 inches long, then a width of 0.5 inches of hair is required when spread out flat on a ruler.
- If the hair is shorter than 1.5 inches in length, then more hair is required (1-inch length requires ¾ inch width; 0.5 inch requires 1.5-inch width). This is because the test requirements are actually weight-specific; 100mg of hair.
Hair follicle test samples can be collected from several locations on the head and combined to get the necessary amount of hair for a sample testing. Generally, the hair is taken from the crown of the head, but if your hair is too short, they can actually use body hair. Body hair is even worse than head hair, as it represents a time frame of approximately one year. The growth pattern that occurs in the hair and below the neck can differ significantly.
Tricks That Won’t Help You Pass a Hair Follicle Drug Test
As we have already determined, a hair follicle test is difficult to cheat. But that doesn’t stop people from trying all sorts of methods to try to help them pass the test. Several of these attempts have been documented (to a rather comic effect) all over the internet. However, just like many things on the internet, you can’t believe everything that you read.
1. Shaving the Head
One of the most common approaches that likely won’t get you anywhere is shaving the head. Not only would this tactic be more applicable for men, but a shaved head probably won’t impede any testing technician. In fact, they would just take a hair from another part of your body, most likely the armpit or chest.
2. Bleaching or Dying the Hair
This one has a little more common sense to it, but unfortunately, it also won’t do you much good. Dying or bleaching your hair may seem like a good idea, but it may not be very useful in reality. Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest drug testing and diagnostics companies in the country, found that hair treatments have minimal effect on the hair follicle test results.
Are Hair Follicle Tests Accurate?
Hair follicle drug tests can’t be regarded as 100% accurate. One of the more noteworthy studies, conducted by German researchers in 2015, investigated the reliability of these tests. The research group exposed two participants to THC (the primary intoxicating compound found in marijuana) and one participant with THCA, a non-intoxicating precursor to THC.
The two participants receiving THC were dosed with 2.5 milligrams of dronabinol (a synthetic THC) three times per day for 30 days. Researchers then tested a sample of new hair growth for THC-COOH content. THC-COOH is the primary metabolite formed from the breakdown of THC after you ingest cannabis.
Still, to the surprise of many, the German researchers didn’t find much THC-COOH during their study.
They then went on to test segments of older hair from a time before the participant had consumed cannabis, and interestingly enough, the participants received positive THC results for the older samples. Additionally, they found that long hair resulted in more significant contamination. So what does this mean? The study suggested that THC found in the hair must come from various sources (i.e., secondhand smoke) rather than just circulation through the bloodstream.
It has long been believed that THC-COOH travels through the bloodstream and eventually makes its way into the hair, but this process is still ambiguous. Despite this, most hair follicle tests search for the presence of THC-COOH to indicate whether a person has been consuming cannabis regularly.
The Society of Hair Testing21 has given a recommended cut-off of 50 mg of THC concentration. This means that for THC to reach the hair from the bloodstream, a person would have had to consume extremely high amounts of high-potency weed. Having said that, people who consume cannabis regularly are more likely to be exposed to it from external sources, which would cause more of it to end up on their hair.
Thus, researchers have concluded that THC findings in hair can’t be regarded as absolute proof of cannabis consumption. Keep in mind that a few problems have been found in this study; for example, a very small sample of participants took part. This means we cannot say with absolute certainty that these results would ring true for all cannabis hair testing.
How Does Cannabis End Up in the Hair?
There are two primary ways in which cannabis can end up in your hair. As we have already touched on, a hair test screens for the presence of THC-COOH. This is a metabolite that is formed during the breakdown of THC. It forms when the THC in your blood passes through the liver and is stored in the fatty tissue around your body (including body fat deposits and organs such as your lungs, kidneys, and heart).
Additionally, THC-COOH ends up in your hair by traveling through your sebaceous gland. This gland secretes natural oils (also known as sebum) on the skin and scalp. The THC-COOH is then secreted in your body’s natural oils along with sweat, which is what coats the strains of hair.
Secondly, THC and other compounds associated with cannabis can even end up on the hair of non-consumers. Just by interacting with the cannabis plant or with people who have consumed cannabis, the cannabinoids can be transferred to the non-users hair. Cannabinoids can be “successfully” transferred via either sebum, smoke, sweat, or even hand-to-hand contact. In other words, don’t let someone who’s just rolled a joint run their fingers through your hair.
How Long Do You Have to Be Clean to Pass a Hair Follicle Test?
Users should be clean for at least 90 consecutive days to pass a hair follicle test. While it can be incredibly challenging for some people to give up weed, it will give you the best chance of passing. As mentioned before, this is because hair samples are cut close to the scalp. The clipping is usually 1.5 inches long, and this represents about 90 days of hair growth.
It’s worth mentioning that 90-days is by no means an exact number, though. As you can imagine, hair growth will differ from person to person, so think of it this way: what’s 90 days for one person, could be 110 days for someone else.
Yet another factor that plays a part in hair growth is age. The older you are, the slower your hair growth rate.
Essentially what this all boils down to is that cannabinoids, such as THC-COOH, will stay in your hair strands until your hair is either cut off or falls out.
Final Thoughts on Hair Follicle Drug Tests
Hopefully, this article has given you a little more insight into hair follicle drug tests. For the most part, it’s probably not what you wanted to hear. We all want nothing more than a quick fix method and “easy-tricks” to get us through the dreaded drug test. But unfortunately, when it comes to the hair follicle test, there’s very little you can do to beat it. However, you can try abstaining from cannabis for at least three months prior or detoxifying the hair with Old Style Aloe Toxin Rid Shampoo.
Of course, it’s always difficult to avoid a drug test. However, the good news is that research is pointing towards hair follicle tests not being 100% accurate.
This means that, since cannabis can be detected in the hair of non-consumers merely because they were either in contact with the cannabis plant or with cannabis users, we can’t wholeheartedly rely on these tests. Hopefully, this will lead to either the elimination of or reduction in hair follicle tests. But if not, you could always go the route of denying any consumption of cannabis, and technically they couldn’t prove otherwise.
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