De-Mystifying Hair Drug and Alcohol Testing

As society strives to manage the challenges of harmful drug and alcohol use, drug and alcohol testing has become an essential tool. Among the various methods employed, hair drug and alcohol testing stands out as a highly accurate and reliable option. Unlike traditional urine or saliva tests, hair testing offers a longer detection window, making it a powerful tool for detecting substance use. In this blog, we will aim to de-mystify the science of hair drug and alcohol testing, and explain what you can expect when taking a hair drug or alcohol test.

Understanding Hair Drug and Alcohol Testing

Hair drug and alcohol testing is a specialised screening method designed to identify the presence of illicit and prescription drugs or alcohol in an individual's system. Unlike other testing methods, hair testing can detect substance use over a more extended period, typically up to 90 days or more, depending on the length of the hair sample collected. This lengthy detection window makes it particularly useful for pre-employment screenings, child custody matters, and rehabilitation monitoring.

The Science Behind Hair Testing

The science behind hair drug and alcohol testing revolves around the unique composition of human hair. When drugs or alcohol are ingested into the body, they circulate through the bloodstream and are metabolised (broken down) by the body.  As the hair grows from the hair follicle, these substances are deposited into the hair shaft, where they remain trapped until the hair is cut or falls out.

During the hair testing process, a small sample of hair is collected from the individual's scalp or body, and it is then sent to an accredited laboratory for analysis. The laboratory uses sophisticated techniques like liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to identify and quantify the presence of drugs or alcohol metabolites in the hair sample. The results of hair drug tests are highly accurate, with minimal chances of false positives or negatives.

The Advantages of Hair Testing

  1. Longer Detection Window:  The most significant advantage of hair testing is its extended detection window. While urine and saliva tests can only detect recent drug or alcohol use (usually within a few days), hair testing can trace substances back over several months. This characteristic is particularly valuable for identifying chronic drug or alcohol use patterns.

  2. Non-Invasive and Easy to Collect: Collecting a hair sample is a non-invasive and straightforward process, typically involving cutting a small amount of hair close to the scalp. Unlike urine or blood tests, it does not require specialised facilities or medical personnel, making it convenient for both the tester and the client.

  3. Difficult to Manipulate: Attempting to manipulate a hair drug or alcohol test is considerably more challenging than other testing methods.  As the drugs or metabolites are trapped within the hair shaft, external factors like shampoos or hair products have minimal impact on the results.

  4. Broad Testing Panel: Hair testing can detect a wide range of substances, including Illicit drugs, prescribed medications and alcohol.  This comprehensive profile provides a more holistic understanding of an individual's substance use history.  For a full list of substances detected in the hair drug screen, please contact us directly at BMFHQ.

What information can a hair drug test provide?

Hair drug testing is a very useful tool to identify a history of drug use over a period of time ranging from 1-6 months, and the most common request is for a 3 month history.  It is also useful to demonstrate a person's abstinence from drug use over a period of time.  While the results can identify historical drug use, they cannot precisely determine when drug use occurred. 

Hair testing is not effective at differentiating between one-time and chronic drug use compared to other testing methods like urine or saliva tests. While it can show a pattern of drug use over time, it cannot pinpoint the exact frequency or amount of drug use on specific occasions.  The amount of drug reported in the hair sample is a total over the time period tested.

What is hair drug testing used for?

  1. Family Law and Child Custody Cases: In certain situations, hair drug testing may be used in family law cases involving child custody disputes or allegations of substance abuse.
  2. Family Mediation: Hair drug tests may be used to support the family mediation process, and may assist in avoiding family court
  3. Drug Treatment Programs: Hair drug or alcohol testing can be used as a tool to monitor individuals' progress during drug treatment programs, helping to assess their abstinence from drugs or alcohol over an extended period.
  4. Probation and Parole Monitoring: In the criminal justice system, hair drug testing can be used for probation and parole monitoring to ensure compliance with drug abstinence requirements imposed as part of the offender's release conditions.
  5. Forensic Investigations: In law enforcement, hair drug testing can be used in forensic investigations to detect drug use or exposure in suspects or victims involved in criminal cases.

How can I get a hair drug or alcohol test?

If you need a hair drug or alcohol test, BMFHQ can help. We facilitate hair tests for clients all over Melbourne at our offices in Moorabbin, Victoria.   We can also do site visits, by special arrangement.  It is not necessary to have a court order.  Private testing is also available.  For urgent testing, same day appointments can be made, but please keep in mind that it takes 5-7 business days for hair test results to be returned.  All testing is carried out at an Australian NATA accredited laboratory.  All clients are treated with the utmost respect and confidentiality.


For confidential enquiries or bookings please call 03 9553 3056 or email


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