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Assessing the Effectiveness of Hair Testing

The latest project for the Drug Testing Advisory Board (DTAB) is the evaluation of hair specimens for possible use in the Federal Workplace Drug Testing Program. Since 1988, organizations that are required to perform federal workplace drug testing have been limited to the use of urine specimens. However, concerns and data have emerged that point up some of the limitations of traditional urine-based testing. This past July, the DTAB opened a meeting to the public to present information on the supportability of the hair specimen for federal workplace drug testing. Entities such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and trucking companies pointed out that it is important for them to be able to look at longer windows of detection (which hair testing provides) when it comes to pre-employment testing. Research has found that hair testing is very difficult to adulterate, but one presentation showed that bleaching or using a flat iron may affect the results of a hair specimen drug test. Another benefit is the elimination of collection issues associated with urine. According to a press release from Omega Laboratories, “hair testing has consistently identified over three times as many illegal substance users as urine testing in regulated industry pre-employment trial programs.” DTAB will give a recommendation to the administrator of SAMHSA, that it would or would not suggest that hair testing be included.

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