What is the Difference Between a Urine and a Hair Follicle Drug Test?

Q: I was just informed that my employer is going to require a hair follicle drug test. I’ve been drug tested before, but never with a hair follicle test. What is the difference between this test and traditional urine testing?

B. Gilley

Little Rock, AR

A: A hair follicle drug test provides a larger window of detection for drug use. With a urine test, there is only a small window of opportunity for detecting drugs. Many drugs, such as cocaine, are only in the urine for a short amount of time. When someone abuses these sorts of drugs and is subjected to a urine test, the drug use may go undetected. With a hair follicle test, there is a much larger window of opportunity. Some drugs can be detected for as long as 90-days – that’s a huge difference from the few days of detection with a urine test.

At the collection site they take about 90-120 strands of hair, which is about the size of a pencil or drinking straw. In most cases the collection is not noticeable. Overall, it is an easy process to get the test done – it just provides more extensive results for the employer.