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Hair Follicle Drug Test Cost: The Factors Affecting the Price

05 March, 2024

A lab technician holding a hair sample with tweezers

The hair follicle drug test cost can vary depending on several factors. One key factor is the type and number of drugs. The more substances being tested, the higher the cost. Another factor is the sensitivity and accuracy of the test, with more advanced and precise tests typically costing more. The volume of samples required for the test can also affect the price, as larger samples may require more resources to analyse.

Identifying substance abuse is important in various settings. Individuals with drug or alcohol addiction may face higher risks of poisoning and developing chronic health conditions. Furthermore, it poses risks to road and workplace safety. Fortunately, individuals and organisations may utilise hair drug testing. This article will present various factors that influence the pricing of hair drug testing, such as the types and quantities of drugs, the sensitivity and accuracy of the tests, and the amount of samples.

Hair Follicle Drug Test Cost is Influenced by the Type and Number of Drugs Being Tested

A hair follicle drug test, also known as a hair drug test, detects the presence of drugs or prescription medication in the person. It involves the analysis of hair samples to identify the presence of drug metabolites. Hair follicle testing can detect drug use over an extended period, typically up to 90 days. Testing officers collect about 90-120 strands of hair samples from the testee.

The type of drugs can have a significant influence on hair follicle drug test costs. Standard drug test panels commonly include certain drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, due to their frequent testing. These routine tests usually have lower costs. However, if testing for a wider range of illicit drugs is necessary, adding additional panels increases the overall cost.

The number of drugs being tested can also impact the cost of hair follicle drug testing. Generally, drug tests involve screening for a specific number of drugs, such as 5-panel or 10-panel tests. These panels define the number of drugs that a single sample of hair is testing for. The more drugs included in the panel, the higher the cost of the test.

Types of Substances

  • Illegal drugs: testing hair can detect the presence of various illegal drugs prohibited by laws in New Zealand. These drug classes include Cannabis, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.
  • Prescription drugs: hair sample testing can detect the misuse of prescription drugs, which is also illegal. These include opiates, opioids, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines. The detection of these substances can help determine if an individual has been using these drugs without a valid prescription.
  • Ethanol: hair testing can identify the presence of ethanol, which is the main active ingredient in most alcoholic beverages. The detection of ethanol can indicate excessive or chronic alcohol misuse.

A lab technician inserting hair samples in a small container

Hair Follicle Drug Test Cost is Affected by the Sensitivity and Accuracy of the Test

Sensitivity and accuracy can influence the hair follicle drug test cost. Sensitivity refers to the ability of the test to identify the presence of drugs or drug metabolites in the hair. Meanwhile, accuracy is a measure of how well a test correctly identifies both true positive and true negative cases.

When a hair follicle drug test is highly sensitive, it can detect even low levels of drug usage. This means that it can identify individuals who have used drugs in the past, including illicit substances and certain prescription medications. However, a highly sensitive test may generate more false positive results, erroneously identifying individuals as drug users. This can lead to unnecessary confirmatory testing, which can increase the overall cost of the test.

On the other hand, an accurate hair strand drug test provides reliable results that correctly identify individuals who have used drugs. This is particularly important in legal testing, such as criminal investigations. However, maintaining accuracy in testing requires more extensive laboratory analysis, which can be costly. This additional cost of ensuring accuracy can contribute to the overall price of hair drug testing.

High-Quality vs. Cheaper Tests

In a high-quality hair test like Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), the analysis is detailed and accurate. It detects a wide range of substances in the hair sample with precision. This drug testing method provides reliable results, making it valuable in various fields like forensics and workplace drug testing.

Meanwhile, cheaper hair tests like immunoassays offer a more affordable option. These tests are mainly for initial screening and rely on antibodies to detect specific substances, making them quicker and cheaper. However, they might not detect a broad range of substances or provide precise results like GC-MS.

A lab technician inserting hair samples into a small container

Hair Follicle Drug Test Cost is Influenced by the Volume of Samples Required

The volume of samples needed directly impacts the hair follicle drug test cost of consumables and reagents. When labs require larger sample volumes, they use more testing kits, chemicals, and specialised materials. These consumables play a significant role in driving up the overall cost. Moreover, processing larger sample volumes demands more extensive use of reagents, intensifying the impact on expenses.

Labour intensity is another key factor. Processing larger volumes of samples demands more time and effort from laboratory personnel. The increased labour intensity translates to higher costs as more skilled technicians are needed to handle the testing procedures. Hence, it leads to increased wages and operational expenses.

Furthermore, equipment usage and maintenance costs are factors to consider. Processing larger volumes may require the use of specialised equipment such as centrifuges, spectrophotometers, and automated analysers. The increased usage of equipment leads to higher maintenance costs and a faster rate of wear and tear. Additionally, larger volumes of samples may necessitate the calibration and validation of equipment more frequently.

Head Hair vs. Body Hair

Head hair grows slowly compared to body hair, averaging a growth rate of around 0.5 inches per month. This slow growth gives head hair a longer detection period for drug use. Analysts usually examine a 1.5-inch segment of head hair, which indicates roughly three months of possible drug exposure.

In contrast, body hair grows faster. Despite its speedy growth, body hair holds onto drug metabolites for a shorter time than head hair. This is because of the distinct types of hair follicles in the body. As a result, drug residues are usually detectable in body hair for only a few weeks after drug use.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the hair follicle drug test cost depends on various factors. The type and number of drugs being tested influence the price, as do the sensitivity and accuracy of the test. More extensive testing for a wider range of drugs or higher sensitivity can increase costs. However, it is essential to balance sensitivity with accuracy to avoid unnecessary expenses from false positives. Ultimately, individuals or organisations opting for hair drug testing should consider these factors.

Moreover, larger sample volumes directly impact the cost by increasing consumable and labour expenses. Processing larger samples demands more resources and skilled personnel, thereby raising overall costs. Furthermore, expenses are influenced by equipment usage and maintenance, as larger volumes necessitate specialised equipment and more frequent calibration. Head and body hair affects the detection period. Head hair offers a longer window for drug exposure due to slower growth. Meanwhile, body hair retains drug metabolites for a shorter duration.

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