Hair testing in case reviews and child protection

The knowledge of parental substance misuse is a significant factor in:

  • Care proceedings where it is critical that testing results are presented on time, and are fit for purpose
  • Case reviews and child protection when you wish to better understand parents’ drug and alcohol usage
  • Drug or alcohol treatment of parents struggling with the stress of looking after a young child
  • Reducing the impact of parents’ drug and alcohol misuse on their children
  • Assessing risk to the child by understanding the parents’ pattern of drug use 

Drug and alcohol hair testing helps to assess risk to a child by understanding the parents’ pattern of drug use. The aim is to reduce the impact of parents’ drug and alcohol misuse on their children and  to help integrate parents with their families. Hair testing provides evidence to assess substance abuse.

Drug and alcohol hair testing is now widely used to assist the decision making process both as it helps to identify a parents’ drug and alcohol habit and because it is a reliable evaluation method to show that parents have stopped taking drugs.

Which drug test?

Urine and saliva (oral fluid) drug testing reflects drug use on a relatively short period before sample collection (24–72 h) depending on the drug, but it cannot detect impairment. Abstention from use for 3 days will often produce a negative urine test result.

Hair drug testing provides a much longer window of detection, typically 1 to 3 months.  Hence the likelihood of a false negative test using hair is very much less than with a urine test.  Conversely, a negative hair test is a substantially stronger indicator of a non-drug user than a negative urine test. Hair analysis can indicate frequency of drug use.

The need to use a trusted and competent laboratory

Family Law lawyers and Social Services involved in care proceedings require a trusted and competent laboratory for drug and alcohol testing. 

It is critical that testing results are presented on time for case review meetings or Court and are fit for purpose

When you, a Social Worker or a Legal professional, request a drug test in hair to be used in cases of child protection, the results provided by the laboratory need not only to be clear but of a quality level according to certain strict standards. In other words, you need to know the results are accurate.

The quality of the analysis of drugs in biological material matters because the results of the analysis affect judicial decisions.

Who are the providers of drug testing in hair samples?

Hair testing is provided to you by 1) testing laboratories and by 2) hair testing re-sellers.

Re-sellers contract out the work to testing laboratories who are always the ones who actually perform the tests.

There are, in the current market, many re-sellers who are the intermediate connection between the customer and a hair testing laboratory, who contract out the analytical work to those few laboratories providing the test. In many cases, this is not clear to the customer.

There are only a few qualified testing laboratories that hold quality standards and even fewer testing laboratories are accredited for the wide range of drugs that are usually tested.

The re-seller of hair drug testing does not need to be accredited, but customers need to be aware of which accredited laboratory they are utilising for the testing.

What is laboratory accreditation?

The basic standard of proper accreditation for drug analysis laboratories is ISO/IEC 17025, which is the technical standard based on international guidelines and is recognised by the international technical community, including the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists.

The Society of Hair Testing (SoHT), an association that brings together scientists specialising in the analysis of drugs in hair samples worldwide, founded in 1995, recognises ISO/IEC 17025 as the international Standards for drug testing in hair.

ISO/IEC 17025 is the technical and administrative competence standard that takes into account all factors related to the production of reliable and traceable analytical results, in other words it is the standard that ensures that a laboratory is managed, and  has the scientific, technical and administrative knowledge, experience and skill to produce a quality result.

Check if the laboratory you are using or the testing lab your re-seller uses is accredited for the tests and drugs you need

Laboratory Accreditation is given by bodies with international recognition. In the UK, ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation is granted by UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service). Each testing laboratory is issued with a testing laboratory number. For example, 7484 is Cansford Laboratories’ UKAS Testing Laboratory number.

Accreditation is test specific, in order for a test to be accredited, both the parent drug and metabolite should be detailed on the laboratory’s schedule of accreditation. For example, labs could state they are accredited for testing a hair sample for Cannabis, however, unless they are accredited for the parent drug (THC) together with a metabolilte (e.g. THC-COOH), the Cannabis test as a whole is not accredited.

The details of each lab’s accreditation can be viewed on by clicking here then enter the company name and click on testing labs, this will show if a company is accredited. If they are, it will also state their schedule of accreditation.

Checking in this simple way will enable you to be sure that you are getting the best possible service to meet your drug testing needs.


Posted in Drug testing, Family law & children care, Hair drug testing Tagged with: , , , , , ,