A urine drug test detects recent drug use while a hair test can pick up past drug use as far back as 90 days. Companies tend to use a urine test because of the quick results. Hair testing can detect longer use, so the question of which one is better can only be answered by the individual company.
Results can be obtained in as little as 24-48 business hours. Because it can detect up to 10 types of drugs is another reason the urine test is popular. However, this drug test can only detect use within 72 hours. Although effective for quick and short term results, it’s a test that can be beaten.
An employee knowing there’s a company drug screening policy can deliberately avoid taking one of the 10-panel drugs that are tested (cocaine, marijuana, crystal meth, heroin, codeine, morphine, and PCP) to pass the test. Tampering with urine is also a possibility since most companies don’t have on-site testing.
A hair sample is tested for drug metabolites. This method is said to be tamper proof and the reason several companies use it. Although there are some products on the market that claim to be able to cheat the hair test, such as detox shampoo, hair dyes and bleaches won’t alter the result.
The downside to hair testing is that it limits the number of drugs being tested. Unlike the urine test which tests for 10 drug types, the hair testing screens for the five most popular: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine. The cost of the test is also substantial.
In the case of which one a company should choose, hair vs urine test really comes down to quality vs quantity. The urine test has a faster turn around, detects more drugs and is cost effective. However, it isn’t above tampering. The hair test is considered tamper resistant but limits the drugs being tested for and cost must more.
Each method serves its purpose. The urine method might serve the purpose well for one company while the hair test could be a better preference for another company. In the end, a company has to weigh its options as to the importance of a drug-free environment as it pertains to their company’s culture.