Hair Strand Drug and Alcohol Test

90% of results within 48 hours*

A hair strand drug test is among the most accurate laboratory tests for drugs and alcohol – and is almost impossible to cheat.

  The method can be used to detect virtually all drug and alcohol substances, between 7 days and 6  months after their use. Test results also indicate the month in which a donor ingested a substance, and can therefore be used to build a ‘picture’ of substance use over time.

A small amount of hair is taken by a trained sample collector – usually from the head (we only need about a shoelace worth, which is less than many laboratories).

Should an individual’s hair be completely unsuitable for testing, we can still use body hair or fingernails – for an accurate result.

Today, Cansford Laboratories is the fastest hair testing service in the UK. 90% of results are available within 48 hours* of receipt at our laboratory in Cardiff.

What you need to know about hair testing:

Detection window:

  • For alcohol, 1month –6 months
  • For drugs, 7 days–indefinite (dependant on hair length)


Detection window:

Cansford is able to detect a wide range of substances of abuse in hair.

Our laboratory is accredited to ISO 17025: 2017 standard for testing the widest range of drug groups and metabolites in hair in the UK .  

Click here to see the complete list

    Collection method:

    • A hair sample of around 5-millimetre thickness is taken from the head or body of the donor, and deposited in a sealed, tamper-proof envelope. This is sent to the laboratory for testing.


    • Exceptionally difficult to cheat
    • Indicates patterns of drug or alcohol use over weeks and months
    • Highly sensitive; highly accurate
    • Simple, non-invasive collection
    • Fast results turnaround, when performed by Cansford Laboratories.



    • Hair tests cannot precisely determine the quantity of substances used by the donor
    • Samples cannot indicate substance use less than 7 days after the incident.

    How does hair strand drug testing work?

    When ingested, drugs and alcohol produce specific chemical markers in the body called metabolites. These markers pass into hair, which subsequently acts as a record of an individual’s drug or alcohol use. The presence of the metabolites helps to prove that the compound was ingested by the donor, and not simply the result of external contamination – for example, another person using drugs in the donor’s presence.

    Hair typically grows at about one centimetre per month. When tested, each centimetre of hair therefore reflects one month’s history of drug use (or non-use). This is why hair strand testing is able to provide such a large window of detection, assessing drug use as far back as 6 months.

    Essentially, the time frame of detection required dictates the amount of hair required for the sample. If a court orders a hair test to assess drug use in the past 4 months, then 4 cm of hair will be analysed.

    Hair takes around 7 days to grow out of the scalp – which is the minimum time window a hair test can detect. It may therefore be necessary to use hair testing in conjunction with blood and (oral fluid) saliva testing.