Frequently asked questions
Have a question on our services? Read through our FAQs below.
Hair drug testing
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Ethyl palmitate (EtPa) and EtG are ‘by products’ produced by the body in the presence of alcohol.
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.
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.
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.
No, the alcohol in hair test provided by Lextox should only be used to help assess chronic excessive alcohol use.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Due to the way nails grow and the available nail that can be collected, the analysis can only be undertaken on an overview basis.
Nail clippings must be 2-3mm and amount to around 10mg.
Blood alcohol testing
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.
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.
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.
Blood samples can be taken by our collectors or by a medically trained professional.
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
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.
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.
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.
SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring ®
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.
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.
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.