The Present and Future of Hair Testing

The unique characteristics of hair that allow estimation of dose and approximate dates of use, re-sampling and retesting, and other advantages make hair analysis of great value as either an alternative to other body fluids or as a complementary test. Effective washing of hair samples is a prerequisite for valid hair-testing results. There are additional benefits of hair analysis relative to the other body fluids in the case of specific analytes. For example, in analysis of opiates, hair does not produce a positive opiate result from consumption of even very high amounts of poppy seed (21). Hair analysis of well-washed samples also allows distinction between heroin use and morphine use, as only heroin produces the metabolite 6-MAM, and significant amounts of morphine are not usually found in hair due to use of codeine. In the case of methamphetamine, the use of Vicks Inhalers has not produced false-positive results in washed hair samples. For some amphetamine-class substances such as MDMA and MDEA, recreational use on weekends often does not show up in urine analysis as a result of the low doses and urine's short detection window. Analysis of hair, on the other hand, detects these drugs even at low doses.

Applications of hair analysis in medical and pharmaceutical fields await serious exploration. For example, hair analysis can be applied to measure compliance with prescriptive medications or evaluating efficacy of the medications. Hair analysis can also be used to establish not only the intake of a drug under study, but also the effects of other medications, nutrients, or similar substances that may confound interpretation of study results.

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