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Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

Have a question on our services? Read through our FAQs below. 

Hair drug testing

What time period can a hair drug test cover?

Hair grows at an average rate of one cm per month, therefore, a three cm section of head (scalp) hair will provide an approximate time period of three months. The time period that a hair sample can cover is dependent on the length of hair that is available. If someone was to have 12cm of hair, then a hair drug test could cover the past year.

Can body or facial hair be used if no scalp/head hair is present?

If no scalp hair is available, then body hair or facial hair can be used. Body and facial hair grow at different rates depending on the site, and a different growth cycle to that of scalp hair, meaning that a greater proportion of the hair remains on the body or face in its resting (non-growing) or telogen phase. For this reason, body or facial hair samples are analysed as a whole sample and are unable to be segmented into a month by month analysis.

What’s the difference between a month by month analysis and an overview?

A month by month analysis will section the hair into approximate individual months covering the length of the hair that requires analysis. For example, if a hair drug test was to cover six months, a month by month analysis will provide six individual results for each approximate monthly period. This is especially useful if you need to obtain a trend in drug use, i.e. to see a decrease or increase in drug use over time, or highlight particular months where drugs were or not detected.

An overview of a six month drug test will provide you with two results, one for the first three months and another for the second three months. Therefore, the overview analysis will provide a general result of drug use within a time period and not to an individual month. An overview analysis is beneficial if you only need to obtain a general indication of drug use or abstinence.

What drugs can you test?

A full list of the drugs we test for at Lextox can be found here.

How soon after a drug was taken can it be detected in the hair?

It takes about two weeks from the time of drug use to detection in the hair. This is due to the time it takes for the hair to grow a sufficient length to be cut and analysed.

How quickly can I receive hair drug test results?

We endeavour to issue the results, in the format of an expert report, in a competitive time frame . If results are to be presented to court, we recommend samples are received at our laboratory at least 12 working days before the court date.

Hair alcohol testing

What are ethyl palmitate (EtPa) and EtG?

Ethyl palmitate (EtPa) and EtG are ‘by products’ produced by the body in the presence of alcohol.

What are the differences between ethyl palmitate (EtPa) and EtG? Why should both be used together?

EtPa is produced by the body in the presence of alcohol, EtG is produced via the liver. EtG is soluble in water and as such is susceptible to be leached out of the hair through normal hygiene practices or through the use of cosmetic treatments (hair dyes). EtPa is not soluble in water, however is still sensitive to hair treatments.

EtPa and EtG are different markers that when used together can provide a greater degree of confidence when assessing an individual’s chronic excessive alcohol consumption. Either test may be used in isolation, however this rules out the mutual confirmation of results.

Lextox has taken guidance from the Society of Hair Testing Consensus for the Use of Alcohol Markers in Hair for Supporting the Assessment of Abstinence and Chronic Alcohol Consumption and provides ethyl palmitate (FAEE) and EtG analysis as a combined test as standard for the mutual exclusion of false positives and false negatives.

It is also recommended that the alcohol in hair test is used in conjunction with blood alcohol tests (liver function, CDT and PEth) to help obtain a more comprehensive picture of an individual’s alcohol use.

How do ethyl palmitate (EtPa) & EtG get into hair?

Ethyl palmitate (EtPa) is incorporated into the hair via sebum, an oily secretion composed of fat and wax that is produced by glands on the skin. Incorporation of EtG into the hair is mainly thought to occur via sweat.

What is classed as chronic excessive alcohol use?

Currently, the Society of Hair Testing states that chronic excessive alcohol drinking corresponds to an average consumption of 60 grams of pure ethanol (alcohol) per day over several months.

Can the alcohol in hair test show alcohol abstinence?

No, the alcohol in hair test provided by Lextox should only be used to help assess chronic excessive alcohol use.

Can body hair be used for alcohol testing?

If no scalp hair is available, then chest, leg and arm hair can be used. Body hair has a different growth cycle to that of scalp hair, meaning that a greater proportion of the hair remains on the body in its resting (non-growing) or telogen phase. For this reason, body hair samples are analysed as a whole sample and are unable to be segmented into a month by month analysis.

What is the time period that an alcohol in hair test can cover?

Currently the recommended length of hair that an alcohol in hair test can cover is either the past three months or the past six months. This is in line with the Society of Hair Testing Consensus for the Use of Alcohol Markers in Hair for Supporting the Assessment of Abstinence and Chronic Alcohol Consumption.

Can bleaching or dyeing the hair affect the levels of alcohol markers detected?

Both ethyl palmitate (EtPa) and EtG are sensitive to the use of cosmetic treatments such as hair dyes and hair bleach. Our experts are on hand to provide guidance and advice on chemically treated samples.

Do the levels of ethyl palmitate (EtPa) and EtG detected in the hair sample equate to units of alcohol consumed?

Due to the difference in people’s metabolism, hair growth rates and difference in hygiene practices, it is not possible to correlate the amount of EtPa and EtG detected in the hair to specific units consumed. The alcohol in hair test identifies the biomarkers that are produced by the body when alcohol is used as opposed to identifying the alcohol itself.

Nail drug and alcohol testing

What time period can nail testing cover?

A fingernail clipping can cover up to approximately six months of substance use history, whereas a toenail can cover up to 12-18 months use.

Can results be segmented?

Due to the way nails grow and the available nail that can be collected, the analysis can only be undertaken on an overview basis.

How long should the nail sample be?

Nail clippings must be 2-3mm and amount to around 10mg.

Blood alcohol testing

What time period can blood alcohol testing cover?

The blood tests for alcohol show recent alcohol use. A liver function test is a snap shot in time of the liver function and damage, whereas a carbohydrate deficient transferrin test can highlight excessive alcohol consumption over the past two to four weeks.

PEth blood testing is useful in detecting prolonged or heavy ‘binge’ drinking when tested for regularly. Typically, the detection period for PEth is four weeks.

Why are liver function and carbohydrate deficient transferrin testing used in conjunction?

It is recommended that both tests are used together to obtain a better picture of alcohol use. Each test looks for different markers so when combined they can provide mutual confirmation and a greater degree of certainty. A single test in isolation may lead to a misinterpretation of alcohol use.

What is PEth testing?

A PEth blood test measures the level of phosphatidylethanol, a direct alcohol biomarker which is found in human blood following alcohol consumption. Phosphatidylethanols are abnormal phospholipids formed in the presence of alcohol.  

Who can take a blood sample?

Blood samples can be taken by our collectors or by a medically trained professional.

How long will the blood alcohol results take?

We endeavour to issue blood alcohol results for liver function and carbohydrate deficient transferrin within approximately five working days from satisfactory receipt of the sample at our laboratory. If results are to be presented to court, we recommend samples are received at our laboratory at least 10 working days before the court date.

Analysis results for PEth testing will take up to 10 working days from receipt of the sample into the laboratory.

DNA relationship testing

How are the DNA samples taken?

The samples are taken by one of our professionally trained healthcare specialists. A forensic swab is used to brush the inside of the donor’s cheek, in what is a painless and non-invasive procedure.

I’m unsure as to which test I require to fit the circumstances, what should I do?

Talk to our experts today and they will advise you on what types of tests we offer and how they can be beneficial to you/your case – [email protected] or 029 2048 4141.

From what age can a child be tested?

Due to the fact that our testing is conducted through analysing buccal swabs (which are completely pain-free and non-invasive to collect) we are able to test a child of any age after birth.

However, our prenatal DNA testing allows testing of the foetus to determine paternity.

What is ‘Peace of Mind’ testing and do you offer it?

Yes we do. Peace of Mind paternity testing, also called private or in-home paternity testing, is characterised by the self-collection process. We send sample collection kits to the tested parties, and they perform their own buccal swabbing to collect their DNA samples. Because of this collection method, private paternity testing produces results that are not legally defensible. Included with the kit are consent forms that must be signed and returned with the samples.

How quickly will I receive the test results?

Our average turnaround time for DNA results is four working days. Please note that analysis results for prenatal DNA tests will be provided in eight working days or less.

SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring ®

How does SCRAM test an individual’s alcohol consumption?

The bracelet tests the level of alcohol excreted transdermally (through the skin) of the donor.

Are you able to detect whether the bracelet has been obstructed and/or tampered with?

Yes. The bracelet is fitted with both temperature and infrared sensors which are able to detect when an object has been placed in between the ankle and the sensor.

Do Lextox fit/install the SCRAM bracelet?

Yes. One of our professionally trained Sample Collectors will meet you at your location to install the SCRAM Base Station and to fit the bracelet to the participant’s ankle.

How disruptive is wearing the SCRAM bracelet to day to day life?

The beauty of the SCRAM bracelet is that it causes very minimal disruption to an individual’s day-to-day life. They are still able to shower, work out, go to work and spend time with friends and family as normal.

Does the Base Station require a phone line in the participant’s home?

No. There are multiple ways to connect the Base Station and for readings to be transmitted including landline, ethernet and wireless multiconnect unit.

How does the Base Station gather alcohol readings from the participant?

The information is transmitted to the Base Station wirelessly twice a day. If the donor is not in range of the Base Station, the device will still gather information and will transmit readings when the participant is back in range of the Base Station.

Can the SCRAM bracelet detect the difference between consumed alcohol and other external environmental factors?

Yes. The SCRAM bracelet tests the level of alcohol that is excreted through the skin of an individual, when this data is sent to be reported we will be able to differentiate between a alcohol consumption and environmental alcohol. An alcohol reading which peaks suddenly and sharply indicates that an environmental factor has caused the result. This is due to the fact that a ‘normal’ drinking event will show a gradual and curved reading as the alcohol level in the body slowly increases as the drinking event progresses.

Sample collections

What sample types can the collectors take?

Our professionally trained sample collectors are able to take hair, nail, blood and oral swab samples from donors all within one sample collection. All our collectors are fully trained in the chain of custody procedures to ensure the sample is taken correctly to prevent analysis delays.

What ID documentation will the donor need at the time of the sample collection?

A driving licence, passport or another form of photographic ID will be required to ensure that we are collecting the sample from the correct person.

How much hair will be taken?

We require a minimum weight of hair to successfully undertake drug and/or alcohol analysis. If the hair sample falls below our recommended weight, the sensitivity of the test may be compromised.

For drug analysis, we require a minimum of 10mg per section. For alcohol analysis, a minimum of 20mg per alcohol marker.

Due to the nature of hair testing, samples have to be collected as close to the scalp as possible. Our sample collectors are fully trained to collect sufficient sample while minimising the impact on the donor. This includes cutting the hair with scissors and where possible taking it from the crown of the head to allow the remaining hair to cover the sample site.

What should clients prepare the donors for the hair sample collection?

It is helpful when the donor is made aware of the samples that are being collected and the reasons why. This helps to prevent any distress for the donor and allows the sample collection to run smoothly.

We recommend that all donors provide prescriptions, details of medications and hair products used at the sample collection appointment, which ensures that such items are taken into consideration in the expert report. This helps to avoid delays with the testing and also reduces the need for questions regarding medication/hair products after the analysis has taken place.

With regard to blood samples, it is recommended that the donor is asked to keep hydrated before a blood sample is collected.