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What’s the Difference Between a Hair and Fingernail Drug Test?

With so many options for drug and alcohol testing, many people are left wondering: how do I know which kind of drug test to get? There are many different testing methods to consider, each one with its own unique benefits and purpose. Hair and fingernail drug testing are among the most common types of drug tests, sharing a handful of similarities as well as many differences.

Differences Between Hair and Fingernail Drug Tests

If you’re wondering how to choose between fingernail and hair drug tests, we’re breaking down the key differences – and benefits of each – to help you make an informed decision.

Sample Collection and Testing Method

In hair drug testing, a technician will collect about 90 to 120 strands of hair (approximately 100mg of hair), cutting closely at the scalp. The hair is then placed in a foil wrap and sealed in an envelope. The testing process is designed to detect drug markers both outside and inside the hair shaft. Using a highly precise process, lab workers are able to determine the number of drugs (and their metabolites) present in the hair shaft, as well as rule out any potential for contamination versus consumption.
Nail drug testing requires about 100mg of nail samples, using all 10 fingernails to add up to 100mg-length, depending on how thick the person’s nails are. The collection process is supervised by a trained technician and the sample is secured and transferred to a lab for testing. At the lab, one of two methods will be used to identify any drugs in the nail sample: liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry or immunoassay screening and a confirmation test.

Types of Drugs Detected

Both hair and fingernail drug testing uses a 17-panel testing kit that is designed to detect the use of:

  • Amphetamines
  • Cannabinoids
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Phencyclidine
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates
  • Methadone
  • Propoxyphene
  • Oxycodone
  • Meperidine
  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Sufentanil
  • Ketamine
  • Buprenorphine
  • Zolpidem

Detection Window

Hair drug testing offers a detection window of up to 3 months for head hair and 6 months for body hair. Nail drug testing can typically trace usage up to 6 months for fingernails and up to 12 months for toenails.

Common Uses

Hair drug testing is ideal in situations where a “big picture” of drug use is desired, particularly because it provides such a large detection window. Nail drug testing is also a good option for establishing a pattern of usage, specifically in cases where the test subject has demonstrated repeated usage in the past.

Benefits of a Hair Drug Test Vs. a Fingernail Drug Test

The biggest benefit of hair drug testing is its extended detection window, making it an excellent way to establish a picture of habitual drug use. Fingernail drug testing offers the same benefit of a generous detection window, but also provides an added advantage in terms of collection method. If a test subject cannot or will not provide sufficient hair for testing, a nail drug test can provide similar results.

Varied Options for Professional Drug Testing in Jacksonville, FL

ARCpoint Labs of Jacksonville offers an extensive selection of drug testing options, including hair drug tests, fingernail drug tests, and many other services. Whether you’re an employer interested in implementing drug testing in the workplace, an employee looking for DOT-approved tests, or simply seeking drug testing for legal or personal reasons, ARCpoint Labs can help. Here, we make it simple to get accurate, confidential, and affordable drug and alcohol testing in Jacksonville.
Learn more about our drug and alcohol testing services or schedule your appointment by contacting ARCpoint Labs of Jacksonville today.

Image Credit: LightField Studios