Why the Family Courts should use segmented hair drug testing

A segmented drug test uses an individual’s hair sample to give an account of the pattern of drug intake, month by month.

As head hair grows at an average rate of around 1 cm each month, cutting the whole sample into 1-cm sections allows review of each consecutive month – drug misuse patterns can be determined over a period of time. 

For example, if a 6cm sample is segmented then a month by month chronology of drug use can be ascertained with 6 discrete results.

So why do we recommend that the courts use segmented hair samples…

Testing the whole length of hair will only give an average result for the whole timescale, by analysing each monthly segment of hair, it is possible to obtain the clients pattern of drug use. This can show a decrease or increase in drug use over time, or even show irregular drug use.

For example if an individual reports that they have been cutting down their drug misuse, this would then be reflected in reduced levels of the drug being detected in each segment over time.

Occasionally over a six month period individuals can change the pattern of misuse, often individuals who have been taking a drug such as amphetamine ‘now and again’ will start to become amphetamine dependant taking higher doses more frequently. This a pattern we see all too frequently at Atkinson Lewis, as it is reflected in rising levels in segmented hair.

Such changes in the frequency and amount of misuse can lead to changes in the psychological everyday behaviour of the donor which can be predicated by an experienced expert.

Thus showing the full picture of substance misuse. Which provides a more accurate assessment of the individual’s substance misuse or abstinence when presented to the court.

This is important as it can show that an individual is trying to stop misusing, engaging in treatment or struggling with an increasing addiction.

This gives vital input to the evidential picture and can further aid the court when it is making difficult decisions.

For more information on hair segmentation, please click here.

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