Hair Strand Testing in Family Law Cases
In family law cases, accurate and timely testing is vital, especially concerning substance misuse issues involving one or both parents. Understanding the extent and pattern of drug or alcohol misuse is crucial in assessing risks to dependents.
Hair strand testing is the gold standard forensic test to help identify a history of substance abuse. It relies on the fact that head hair grows about 1 cm per month, enabling the assessment of drug or alcohol use over a specific period based on the length of hair selected.
Drug Hair Testing:
For drug testing, two types of head hair strand tests are available: overview and segmented analysis.
Overview testing averages out drug use over a period, detecting use within 3 to 12 months, depending on the hair length selected.
Segmented analysis divides hair into segments, enabling monthly analysis over a specific period, beneficial in tracking trends and patterns of misuse
Hair Alcohol Testing:
Ethanol (alcohol) produces metabolites that may be incorporated into the hair shaft via the root, offering insights into alcohol consumption habits for up to six months.
During a typical hair alcohol test, the examination targets two primary metabolites:
- Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG)
- Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters (FAEEs), specifically Ethyl Palmitate (EtPa)
When someone indulges in excessive alcohol intake over three months, both these molecular indicators are expected to be present. The presence of each reinforces the evidence, collectively suggesting a pattern of prolonged alcohol use.
However, metabolites attach to hair strands in a complex manner, diffusing over time. Consequently, the hair strand doesn’t present a linear timeline akin to that of a drug test. Instead, the hair strand represents a discreet timeframe, offering a general overview of alcohol usage over the relevant three months.
Our friendly, professional sample collectors cut the hair strands from the highest point of the scalp. If head hair isn’t available for drug testing, alternatives like pubic, underarm, chest, leg, or beard hair can be considered. However, these alternate sites have different growth rates and can’t pinpoint drug use timelines accurately.
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