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Hair Follicle Testing May Be The Best Way To Determine Drug Use

Hair Follicle Testing May Be The Best Way To Determine Drug Use
Photo by Reuters

Hair follicle testing may be the best method to find out whether a person has been using illegal drugs, particularly cocaine.

According to a drug testing analyst working at a medical laboratory in Quezon City who requested anonymity, hair follicle drug testing “is harder to adulterate or tamper with compared to urine” and may be considered the most reliable.

Through this method, a person’s drug use in the past 90 days or three months can be detected. Based on various reports, this is possible because drugs present in the bloodstream would become a part of hair cells as it grows. The sweat and sebum present on the scalp may also play a role in determining drug presence in existing strands of hair.

Hair follicle testing is done by cutting between 100 to 120 hair strands from a crown of a person’s head. If a patient is bald, body hair may be collected instead. The hair samples will then be placed in a foil, then in a secure envelope to be sent to the drug laboratory for testing.

The issue on drug testing came about as President Duterte claimed in November that a presidential aspirant was using cocaine.

Many expressed belief that based on the clues that Duterte gave, he was referring to former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Read More: Duterte Claims One Of The Presidential Bets Using Cocaine

Marcos said he did not feel alluded to when Duterte made the allegation about a presidential hopeful. He also submitted a negative drug test conducted by St. Luke’s Global Medical Center in Taguig City to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Presidential aspirants Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and their respective running mates Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Dr. Willie Ong, also tested negative for cocaine and other drugs as the two tandems underwent separate voluntary drug testing at the PDEA office in Quezon City.

Marcos, Lacson, Moreno, Sotto and Ong submitted urine for their drug tests.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who is also running for president, said the drug tests for candidates should be random and unannounced.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao, meanwhile, said the hair follicle test should be used as it is the most accurate. The Filipino boxing legend admitted taking all kinds of illegal drugs for years when he was young and dirt poor.

A chemist working for PDEA, who asked for anonymity, told The Philippine STAR / OneNews.PH in a recent interview that urine collection is the most common type of drug test used.

After collecting urine, drug test kits are used. “It’s like a pregnancy test. It will show if it has a positive or negative screening test,” the chemist said.

If the result from the kit shows it is positive, “we need to do a confirmatory test,” the chemist added. “In the confirmatory test, this is where we use our equipment. This equipment is what we call a gas-chromatography-mass spectrometer.”

Drug use can be detected through urine test four to 72 hours after unlike hair follicle testing where it takes approximately five to 10 days.

But urinalysis is easier to manipulate or adulterate. The results can be tampered with as the urine can be mixed with bleach or diluted with water to avoid a positive result, the analyst said.

To avoid this, the analyst said, the patient must undergo specimen collection protocols as mandated by the laboratory based on guidelines provided by the Department of Health (DOH). 

The analyst added a body search is done to ensure that a person is not holding anything before the urine drug test. As per DOH protocols, a person will also be asked to keep the cubicle door ajar during the procedure to make sure that the medical professional will see how the specimen is collected.

Aside from hair follicle and urine, drug use may also be detected through blood or saliva testing.