Hair analysis for the detection of drug use – is there potential for evasion?
BACKGROUND: Hair analysis for illicit substances is widely used to detect chronic drug consumption or abstention from drugs. Testees are increasingly seeking ways to avoid detection by using a variety of untested adulterant products (e.g., shampoos, cleansers) widely sold online. This study aims to investigate adulteration of hair samples and to assess effectiveness of such methods. METHODS: The literature on hair test evasion was searched for on PubMed or MEDLINE, Psycinfo, and Google Scholar. Given the sparse nature of peer-reviewed data on this subject, results were integrated with a qualitative assessment of online sources, including user-orientated information or commercial websites, drug fora and "chat rooms". Over four million web sources were identified in a Google search by using "beat hair drug test" and the first 86 were monitored on regular basis and considered for further analysis. RESULTS: Attempts to influence hair test results are widespread. Various "shampoos," and "cleansers" among other products, were found for sale, which claim to remove analytes. Often advertised with aggressive marketing strategies, which include discounts, testimonials, and unsupported claims of efficacy. However, these products may pose serious health hazards and are also potentially toxic. In addition, many anecdotal reports suggest that Novel Psychoactive Substances are also consumed as an evasion technique, as these are not easily detectable via standard drug test. Recent changes on Novel Psychoactive Substances legislations such as New Psychoactive Bill in the UK might further challenge the testing process. CONCLUSION: Further research is needed by way of chemical analysis and trial of the adulterant products sold online and their effects as well as the development of more sophisticated hair testing techniques.