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The Primary Differences Between Hair and Fingernail Drug Testing

Fingernail drug testing

When it comes to drug testing, there’s no one right way to approach a situation. Drug tests can be administered in several ways using a wide variety of samples. Two of the most common types of drug tests are hair and fingernail drug testing. There are big similarities between these two forms of testing, as they both rely on keratin found in both hair and nails. However, there are differences worth considering as well.

Which is right for the particular situation you find yourself in? Read on and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.

How the Tests Work

Hair and fingernails both are made out of keratin.

When a person uses drugs or consumes alcohol, traces of these substances can appear in keratin. This makes both parts of the body ideal for testing.

When studied, samples of both hair and nails can be used to determine when and roughly how much a person used these substances. 

In a hair test, a professional will collect somewhere around 100 strands of hair for analysis. The hair is cleaned to rule out potential contamination and then studied for drug metabolites. Nail drug testing works in a much similar way, with about 10mg of nails being used as a sample.

Both forms of drug testing can reveal the presence of a wide variety of drug types.

When a Nail Test Is Used

Of the two forms of drug testing, one is used far more often than the other. Have a guess as to which that might be?

If you guessed hair testing, you’d be right. Generally, it’s considered a lot easier to obtain the sample required for a hair test. This ease means that the test in question is used more frequently. 

Nail tests are often used in an instance where a hair test might not be possible. Some individuals might not have enough body hair to prove an accurate sample size. Others may not want to cut their hair for religious reasons.

Nail testing provides an alternative method that will produce more or less the same results.

Other Differences Between the Two

There are some other key differences one should know between fingernail and hair drug testing.

Fingernail testing often has a longer detection period, with toenails being able to give some evidence of drug use for potentially as far back as twelve months.

In comparison, hair follicle drug tests typically have a smaller detection window of somewhere between three and six months. 

Hair drug testing typically has better results as it pertains to capturing the pattern of drug use over time. For those trying to capture the pattern of usage, a hair follicle test might be preferable.

Understanding Hair vs. Fingernail Drug Testing

If you’re planning on testing individuals for drug and alcohol use, it’s important to understand what test will best suit your needs.

The above information on hair and fingernail drug testing can outline which might be better in your situation.

Have more questions about finding the right test for you?

Give us a call anytime for assistance.

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Whether you are an individual looking to get a drug test done today or an employer looking to get a pre-employment drug test done today, ordering a test online is easier than ever! Just submit your order online, receive your test authorization by email, go to your local clinic to be tested, and receive your test results in 24 to 48 hours.

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