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Hair Drug Test Australia: Overview And How It Works

05 March, 2024

A lab technician placing the hair samples in a petri dish using a tweezer

A hair drug test in Australia is a thorough testing method that detects a history of drug use. It involves collecting a sample of hair and analysing it to identify the presence of illicit substances. Accordingly, hair sample testing works based on the fact that when drugs are ingested, they are metabolised and absorbed in the bloodstream. Subsequently, these substances circulate to the hair follicles. This is incorporated into the growing hair strands and becomes trapped within the hair shaft.

Drug testing is becoming increasingly common in various industries. This may include the workplace, law enforcement agencies, and healthcare. There are different types of testing, such as urine testing, oral fluid testing, and blood tests. However, hair analysis is one of the most accurate and reliable methods. Additionally, it provides a longer detection window, making it a popular choice. This article will present an overview of Australian hair drug testing, how it works, and the collection process.

Overview of Hair Drug Tests in Australia

A hair drug test in Australia is a type of testing to detect the presence of substances in the system. This can identify illicit drugs, prescription medications, and even alcohol abuse. Furthermore, the process of hair follicle testing begins with the hair collection. Then, the conductor will forward the specimen for laboratory analysis. In the facility, it undergoes testing to determine the absence or presence of substances.

Australian workplace drug testing often uses hair testing to ensure safety and productivity. They may conduct it as part of pre-employment testing or random testing. Furthermore, law enforcement agencies employ hair follicle drug tests for forensic investigations and legal proceedings. It can provide reliable evidence of drug use, which is crucial for their casework.

In healthcare settings, hair analysis may be utilised in certain clinical scenarios. This is to assess the historical record of substance use and provide evidence for medical purposes. Additionally, individuals may choose to undergo hair testing for personal reasons. This may include confirming their drug-free status or addressing concerns about their drug use history.

Benefits of Hair Testing

  • Reliable evidence: The accumulation of drug residues in the hair shaft serves as reliable evidence of past substance use.
  • Difficult to adulterate: This makes it a more secure and tamper-resistant option for testing. It enhances the integrity and credibility of the test results.
  • Non-invasive sample collection: It requires only a small sample of hair from the scalp of a person, usually from the back of the head.
  • Longer window of detection: Hair tests can detect substance use over a longer period. It can identify substances for about 90 days.
  • Legal admissibility: The testing results are often admissible as evidence in legal and forensic contexts.

Three professionals working in a laboratory

How Does Hair Drug Test in Australia Work?

Hair drug tests in Australia work in specific ways. This begins with the incorporation of substances into the hair shaft as it grows. During the testing process, a person will collect a small sample of hair from the scalp of an individual. Then, the conductor will pack and label it for identification. Afterwards, the person will forward it to an accredited laboratory for testing.

At the facility, the hair specimen goes through a rigorous testing process. Before the actual testing, the hair samples undergo meticulous washing and preparation. This is to remove external contaminants. It may include dirt, dust, or cosmetic residues. Subsequently, the specimens are subjected to testing using advanced analytical techniques. This process identifies the presence of specific substances.

The analytical techniques may include immunoassay testing for initial screening. Additionally, professionals may conduct Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) or Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) for confirmatory testing. After the testing process, the professional will analyse the results of the test. The reports of the results will be forwarded to the testing party.

Detectable Substances

Hair testing can detect a wide range of substances. Foremost, the testing method can detect various illicit drugs. This may include cannabis (marijuana), cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates (such as heroin), and ecstasy (MDMA). These substances are illegal as they can potentially impact individuals adversely.

Certain prescription medications, particularly those with the potential for abuse or misuse, can also be detected through hair testing. These medications may include opioid painkillers, sedatives, tranquilisers, stimulants, and other psychoactive substances. Additionally, the hair follicle test can identify ethanol. It is a type of alcohol found in most alcoholic beverages.

A professional storing the hair specimens in a vial

Collection Process for Hair Drug Tests in Australia

The sample collection process for hair drug tests in Australia involves specific steps. Foremost, a collector selects the appropriate hair sample from the individual undergoing testing. Typically, the collector chooses a sample from the back of the head, near the scalp. Using a tool, the collector will snip a small section of hair close to the scalp. The standard length is approximately three centimetres.

In cases where the head hair of the person is too short, the conductor may collect auxiliary body hair. This may include chest, legs, and armpit hair. Afterwards, the collector will carefully document the collection process. This includes the details of the individual and the sample collection date. It may also involve the specific location of the body where the collector obtains the hair specimens.

Subsequently, the conductor will seal the samples in a tamper-evident container. Furthermore, to maintain the integrity of the samples, the conductor will establish a chain of custody. This ensures that the samples are stored and accounted for throughout the testing process. Finally, the conductor will transport the hair specimens to a laboratory for analysis.

Factors that Can Influence Hair Samples

External factors such as cosmetic treatments and environmental exposure can impact hair samples. For instance, the use of certain hair products can introduce external substances into the hair. This can potentially interfere with the testing results. Accordingly, environmental factors, including air quality and water contamination, can contribute to the presence of external contaminants.

Additionally, the frequency, duration, and dosage of drug use can directly impact the concentration of drug residues in the hair. This can lead to varying levels of drug incorporation into the hair shaft. Furthermore, genetic differences and variations in hair composition can influence hair samples.

Conclusion

In summary, hair drug tests in Australia are becoming increasingly popular. It is a method of testing that can detect the presence of substances in the body of a person. It works due to the incorporation of substances in the hair shaft. Workplaces, law enforcement agencies, healthcare settings, and individuals often employ the testing. Furthermore, hair testing provides numerous benefits. It has a longer detection window, is difficult to adulterate, is non-invasive, and is often admissible in legal matters.

The process begins with the collection of hair samples. Then, the conductor will forward it to a laboratory for testing. In the facility, the specimens undergo rigorous testing procedures. This may include washing the samples and conducting analytical techniques. Moreover, the testing can detect substances like cannabis, opiates, ecstasy, tranquilisers, and even ethanol. However, it is crucial to know the factors that influence the hair samples. This may include external factors and the frequency of drug usage.

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