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Drug Detection Through Hair Analysis

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1989
1 page
Hair analysis represents a potential approach to drug detection for various criminal justice and forensic applications.
Hair analysis is still in the developmental stage and may be several years from wide-scale field application. In the mean time, current drug detection methods primarily monitor two types of effects. The first type involves short-term behavioral impacts on speech, eye movement, and coordination of motion. The second type involves short-term metabolic effects evidenced in changes in breath, blood, and urine. Because drugs become detectable in hair about 3 or 4 days after consumption, hair analysis cannot reveal recent drug use. Hair analysis techniques are essentially the same as those of radioimmunoassay or urine and offer the same general detection sensitivity. Because hair analysis involves additional steps, however, it is inherently more time-consuming and costly. Hair analysis capabilities may minimize some of the concerns associated with urinalysis: hair samples can be readily obtained in public, without violating privacy and without the invasiveness related to blood or urine as monitoring media; subjects cannot claim they are unable to provide a sample while being observed; and subjects cannot avoid detection by "flushing" the system with large quantities of fluids to dilute urine samples or by "staying clean" for a few days or weeks before a scheduled test.

Date Published: January 1, 1989