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Does ADAM Need a Haircut? A Pilot Study of Self-Reported Drug Use and Hair Analysis in an Arrestee Sample

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 32 Issue: 1 Dated: Winter 2001 Pages: 97-118
Tom Mieczkowski,
Bruce Bullington
Date Published
22 pages
This article discusses the potential impact that hair analysis may have on drug prevalence testing, as compared to the use of urine analysis, and concludes that hair analysis provides more accurate data on the use of heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines than urine analysis does, but less accurate data on the use of marijuana.
The Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program is the only national drug data program that permanently utilizes drug testing in the form of urine analysis. This article evaluates the findings of a small pilot study using hair analysis in an ADAM-like protocol. It was found that heroine, cocaine, and amphetamines were rapidly excreted from the body and had a narrow window of time for detection by urine analysis, whereas marijuana was relatively slowly excreted; thus hair testing was found to be more effective than urine analysis in identifying less recent drug use. Some limitations on hair testing were found to be the following: controversy related to interpretation of hair analysis outcomes; environmental contamination of hair that may confuse the results; there was no single existing technical standard for hair preparation prior to analysis; the differences in hair by color and race which may affect hair analysis assay values; and biovariability or unexplained variances in biosystems. In conclusion, it was found that self-reported cocaine and amphetamine use was notably higher, or under reported, than the hair assay results indicated, and self-reporting for marijuana use was generally higher, or over reported, for marijuana use. It is recommended that further consideration and study be given to the important contribution that hair analysis can make to the ADAM program. Tables, notes, and references