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Hair Analysis: A Tool to Identify Cocain Use

Citation:  Kevin Knight; Grace A. Rowan-szal; Matthew l. Hiller; Lois R. Chatham; D. Dwayne Simpson. (1995).  Hair Analysis: A Tool to Identify Probationers in Need of Drug Treatment.  Federal Probation v59 p58-62 S 1995. 

Abstract:  The increasing prevalence of drug use in criminal populations over the past decade has led the criminal justice system to implement a variety of urine testing programs across the Nation (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1989). Drug treatment referrals sometimes are made with the aid of test results from urines collected soon after arrest, and individuals have been reincarcerated based on the detection of drug use during supervision. Although urinalysis as a method of drug detection has many benefits, it also has its drawbacks. On the one hand, it is highly accurate when done correctly, has a quick turnaround time for results, and has won broad endorsement within the criminal justice system. On the other hand, urinalysis involves an invasive process for observing urine collection, inconvenience in its handling and storage, and a limited time period after use in which drugs can be detected accurately (Magura, Freeman, Siddiqi, & Lipton, 1992). 

In recent years, hair analysis has emerged as another system of drug assaying, also potentially useful in the treatment referral and surveillance process (Baer, Baumgartner, Hill, & Blahd, 1991; Baumgartner, Hill, & Blahd, 1989; Harrison, 1995; Stephenson, 1993). As a chemically stable and permanent record of drug use information, hair absorbs drugs and their metabolites as it grows at the rate of approximately one-half inch a month. Depending on the length or section of hair available and analyzed, therefore, drug use history can be determined. This offers the potential for the testing of individuals who had previously absconded or failed to keep appointments with their probation or parole officer. Other advantages for hair analysis over urinalysis include less invasive collection procedures, fewer storage problems, and lower susceptibility to adulteration. 

This study demonstrated that hair analysis can be useful in identifying cocaine-using probationers when making treatment referral decisions. 


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