Do client’s declared drug misuse always match their test results?

Understanding Hair Strand Drug Testing: Insights and Analysis

Hair strand drug testing serves as a unique and invaluable tool. It offers precise identification and insights into patterns of substance misuse. Also, it can be useful for legal purposes and medical diagnosis and treatment. The analytical method, combined with segmentation of the hair samples, enables a historical picture of misuse to be considered.

Court-approved drug and alcohol testing in child custody cases

Consistency with Declared Drug Misuse

One critical aspect of hair strand drug testing is the concept of “consistency with declared usage.”

Comparing the declared drug misuse, including stated frequency, amount and mode of intake with the forensic test results can be useful. It can either support or contradict self-reported usage.

This ‘consistency with declared usage’ can be helpful when assessing treatment response, motivation to abstain or the willingness to deceive.

The effects of parents with drug and alcohol problems on children
A court-ordered drug test used in family court

What difficulties are there in aligning declared drug misuse with test results?

One inherent difficulty with this is that ‘street’ or illegal drugs do not undergo ‘quality control’.

‘Substance misusers are not always aware of what they are taking which makes consistency with declared usage problematic’  

-Dr Cath Pyves

What factors can affect hair drug test results?

1. Purity:

Firstly strength or purity of an illegal street drug can vary considerably. Police seizures of heroin have demonstrated purity of 0% to 100%. With some samples containing no heroin at all and others at dangerously high levels.

So a heroin user reporting to be taking consistent levels of heroin may have significant changes in levels of the drug and its metabolites from month to month as demonstrated in a segmented hair sample.

Why use hair segmentation drug testing?
2. Contamination:

Some dealers may ‘cut’ other illegal drugs in too. Currently, we have clients who have reported cocaine misuse only. However, they’ve had positive tests for cocaine and ketamine. Recent police seizures have found cocaine is often contaminated with ketamine.

3. Miss-selling:

Many ‘recreational’ stimulant users are surprised when they have a negative test for their drug of choice, but a positive for another. Stimulants such as MDMA (ecstasy) and amphetamine appear to be seen as ‘interchangeable’ by some dealers depending on price and availability.

Occasionally cocaine is also laced with cheaper stimulants. This is why Atkinson Lewis always recommends a nine-panel drugs test. It can help show the full evidentiary picture and give a much more informed answer.

4. Memory Impairment:

Some individuals may experience difficulties in recalling the substances they have taken over a given period. This memory impairment may lead to a situation where they have “lost track” of the substances they have ingested. Naturally this would lead to disrcrepancies in the declared drug misuse and the results.

Such memory challenges can often be attributed to a chaotic lifestyle, further complicating the assessment which again is why a nine-panel drug test is recommended.

These factors must be considered during court-approved drug testing.

How far back does a hair drug test go?
Hair Drug Testing for Legal Proceedings

In legal proceedings and court cases, the objective is to ascertain whether a participant’s or donor’s hair strand drug test results align with their declared usage. Thus serving as a point of truth in the proceedings.

Atkinson Lewis actively encourages and supports the option for a declaration whenever a hair strand drug test is conducted. This can then enhance legal procedures and benefit all parties involved. It is always in the client’s best interests – and the interests of the child for them to tell the truth.

However, as discussed, there are certain instances where the client may believe they’re telling the truth about their declared drug misuse, but the test results do not match up.

So what’s the answer?

At Atkinson Lewis, we offer a 9-panel drug test that can be segmented. This identifies the most common drugs in Classes A-C, with a monthly historical picture. Thus giving a more comprehensive representation of a client’s drug misuse and avoiding any drugs slipping through the cracks.

The medical expertise at Atkinson Lewis enables a more nuanced interpretation of the drugs detected. The clinical experience of working with substance misuse – both in the NHS and probation services and providing the courts with full psychiatric reports on the matter, enables a more holistic opinion and an enhanced report when required.

The 9-panel drug test is the most cost-effective way of hair testing – at a fraction of the price of testing for the individual drugs.

How Can We Help You Today?

We’re here to assist with private and public law cases in the Family Courts. If you’ve got a question, need a quote, or you’re ready with an instruction.

Contact us today.