Many people who are concerned that a relative or loved one has fallen prey to substance dependence may be curious about drug tests. At the same time, there’s often a hesitation involved in asking one to take such a test. The fear is that the addicted individual may react aggressively and accuse the concerned loved one of betraying them or going behind their back.
In such moments, it is important to remember that a person in the grips of addiction is in a fragile mental and emotional state, and that in a very real sense it’s the addiction doing the talking, not the person him or herself.
Despite the short-term turmoil they may cause, drug tests can be a useful way for objectively getting the news of an addiction out in the open. To that end, what follows is some advice regarding two of the most popular forms of drug testing: urine drug testing and hair drug testing.
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Urine Drug Testing
Urine drug tests are by far the most common testing option currently available. They’re fairly inexpensive (some at-home kits are as cheap as $1 for testing for marijuana use, and $25 for testing for opiate use), and are able to detect a wide range of substances. Moreover, they’re noninvasive and relatively easy to perform—they don’t require any sort of needle penetration (as in blood tests) or cutting above the scalp (as in hair tests).
Despite these advantages, urine tests have some notable cons. To begin with, it’s sometimes fairly easy for the tested individual to cheat or skew the results. For instance, because urine tests only detect drug use from the past 1 to 3 days, it’s possible to flush a substance out of one’s system by drinking an excessive amount of water shortly before the test (although one risks deadly water intoxication, or overconsumption of water, by doing so).
Other cheating techniques involve diluting the sample with bottled water, or purchasing someone else’s urine from the black market. For these reasons, urine tests are most effective in combination with strict monitoring, or when administered in a randomized, “surprise” fashion.
Hair Drug Testing
The main advantages of hair tests are that they are able to detect prior drug use over a much longer time period than urine tests and are virtually impossible to cheat or trick. Usually, for a hair test, the lab will try to collect a 1.5-inch strand of hair. On average, a person’s hair grows about half an inch every month. Taken from the root at the scalp, 1.5 inches of hair thus offers a detection window of around 3 months back in time.
Of course, if the patient’s hair is shorter than 1.5 inches, that window is smaller—and if the patient is bald, the test may be impossible to perform all together, at least in the short term. Additionally, hair tests tend to be on the expensive side, with at-home kits ranging from around $50 to $80 and labs charging well over $100.
Nevertheless, for some, the price may be worth it: hair tests offer an effective and virtually cheat-proof alternative to urine tests.
The Right Option for You?
A positive result on a drug tests doesn’t always mean addiction. Still, a drug test may be the wake-up call someone needs to admit that they have a problem or are addicted; or, it could be a useful deterrent for stopping addiction before it even develops. If you’re wondering whether a drug test may be useful for one of your loved ones, contact us today at Vertava Health for a free consultation.