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What Can Cause a False Positive Hair Follicle Test?

false positive hair follicle drug test

Drug testing has become an increasingly important part of both workplace and recreational settings. It is used to ensure that employees are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work, as well as to discourage drug use in recreational activities. Hair follicle tests are a popular form of drug testing due to their accuracy and ability to detect substances for a longer period than other forms of testing.

However, hair follicle tests can return false positives if certain substances were used before the test was conducted. This article will discuss what can cause a false positive hair follicle test and what steps you should take if you have been given one with an unexpected result.

What Are Hair Follicle Tests?

Hair follicle tests are used to detect the presence of drugs or other substances in a person’s hair. This type of test is commonly used in drug testing due to its accuracy and ability to detect drugs even after the body has metabolized them.

The sample taken from the hair follicle is usually cut at least 1.5 inches back from the scalp, with approximately 50-90 strands collected for analysis. While this may sound like a lot of hair to collect, it should not leave a noticeable area of baldness or thinness. The average person's scalp contains approximately 100,000 hairs, so the amount collected for testing is a small sample relative to what is present.

How Do These Tests Work?

The purpose of the test is to determine whether any drug metabolites — the traces that remain once a substance has been broken down and absorbed by the body — have deposited on the exterior part of your hair shafts over time. A laboratory technician will use specialized equipment to examine each strand and look for any evidence of drug use.

What Do Hair Follicle Tests Screen for?

Hair follicle tests are typically used to screen for drugs such as opiates, cocaine, and marijuana, as well as alcohol. Depending on the test you take, it may also be able to detect other substances like steroids or ecstasy. It is important to note that these tests will not be able to detect if someone has taken a drug recently, only if they have used one in the past few months.

How Long Do Drugs Remain Detectable in Your Hair?

The time that drugs will remain detectable in your hair depends on what type of drug a person is being tested for. Generally speaking, drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines can be detected for up to 90 days after use, while marijuana can be detected for up to 30 days.

Can Hair Follicle Tests Return False Positives?

Hair follicle tests can return false positives if certain substances were used prior to the screening. These tests are designed to identify evidence of drug use, but they have a low margin of error and can detect other compounds that may be mistaken for drugs. If something else is present that could be misinterpreted as a drug, it may lead to an incorrect result.

Substances That Can Cause False Positives 

False positive results on a hair follicle test could be caused by both external or internal sources. For instance, externally, common household products like shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products can sometimes contain traces of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, environmental contaminants like paint thinner or secondhand smoke may also cause a false positive if present in the hair sample.

Internally speaking, drugs such as ibuprofen, pseudoephedrine, and even some diet pills have been known to produce false positives on hair follicle tests. If you are taking any of these medications it is important to tell your doctor before undergoing the test so that they can adjust what substances are being looked for in the analysis.

What Happens If You Fail a Drug Test?

If you fail a hair follicle drug test, it could lead to serious consequences. Depending on what type of test you have taken and what the result was, your employer or other institution may take legal action against you. Depending on the situation, this could lead to suspension, termination of employment, or even criminal charges depending on what drug you tested positive for and what laws are in place in your state or country.

What to Do If You Receive a False Positive Result

If you believe that you have received a false positive result on your hair follicle test, it is important to contact the laboratory that conducted the analysis and request a retest. It may also be helpful to have an attorney present as well. Additionally, evidence of what medications or other substances were used before the test can help support your case.

Check Your Status with Countrywide Testing

If you have been asked to take a hair follicle test, it is important to understand what can cause a false positive result. To ensure the accuracy of your results, it may be helpful to take your own at-home test in advance of any mandated drug screenings.

At Countrywide Testing, our reliable and accurate drug testing services can help you understand if any substances — from marijuana and other recreational drugs to legitimate supplements or prescribed medications — will cause any issues by showing up on your test.

Countrywide is an online retailer providing you with easy access to standard drug tests. We offer an array of products for testing at home, individuals staying clean after rehab, workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, and law enforcement purposes. Our test kits are convenient, affordable, and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is accredited by SAMHSA, so you can rest assured your test results are handled in accordance with the highest industry standards.

At Countrywide Testing, we provide fast, accurate results in an easy-to-use format so that you can get the information you need. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive selection of testing services.