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TIAFT and SoHT Conference 2018 – What we Learnt

Last month our Senior Reporting Scientist, Angharad John, attended the joint TIAFT (The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists) and SoHT (Society of Hair Testing) conference in Ghent, Belgium.

Committed to the continual improvement of hair testing, Angharad, who is a member of TIAFT and the SoHT, filled us in on what’s new and what the future holds for hair testing.


Angharad attended some interesting discussions on the emerging issue of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. Fentanyl played a big part in the opioid epidemic in the US and is now making headlines in England and Wales. Fentanyl has been given the street name ‘serial killer’ due to the number of fatalities that have been associated with the drug, which is up to 100 times stronger than street heroin and easy to obtain. Lextox have developed a method to detect fentanyl in hair and this can be requested from 1st October 2018.

Psychoactive Substances 

Legal highs were a hot topic at this year’s conference. While psychoactive substances are no new comers to the illegal drugs market, Lextox already test for 38 different compounds, they are still a relatively new area in hair testing, particularly given the speed at which substances and trends change. Availability of many of these new substances remains relatively high.

Effects of Hair treatments 

The effect of hair products and treatments were discussed in detail, specifically the importance of examining the hair for any signs that it has been treated with hair dye/bleach once it arrives in our laboratory. As standard practice, our Lextox sample collectors always ask the donor to declare all hair products and treatments they use at the time of sample collection, as part of our strict chain of custody procedure. In addition to this our laboratory technicians look for the colour change line or any other visible changes once the hair sample is in our laboratory. This is detailed in our Expert Reports.


The importance of washing the hair prior to analysis was also discussed. At Lextox every sample is washed to minimise/eliminate any external contaminants on the outside of the hair that may affect the analysis. The use of methanol to wash hair samples was found by research presented at the conference to be the most effective for decontamination, and is the method applied by Lextox. Alongside this, there was a presentation on the contamination of cocaine specifically, and the importance of examining the benzoylecgonine/ratio as a strong indicator of use, this is a practice our experts already undertake.

If you have any questions on the above our Experts are always happy to help, please contact us on 029 2048 4141 or email [email protected]

Published 25/09/18 – All information correct at time of publication