Archive for the 'Hair testing' Category

Top Signs Your Child May Be Using Drugs or Alcohol

Drugs and Alcohol

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) 2008 “Monitoring The Future” study on illicit drug and alcohol use by teens and youth, drug use trends that concern both parents and schools reflect:


  • 10.9% of 8th graders, 23.9% of 10th graders and 32.4% of 12th graders use marijuana
  • 15.4% of 12th graders have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. Vicodin continues to be abused at high levels.
  • 2.7% of 8th graders, 7.2% of 10th graders and 9.6% of 12th graders had abused Vicodin
  • 1.8% of 8th graders, 3.9% of 10th graders and 5.2% of 12th graders had abused OxyContin for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed

From peer pressure to looking for a way to deal with family and life challenges, drug and alcohol use by teens is a problem. More importantly, parents and schools may work hand-in-hand in monitoring and managing substance abuse.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of teen drug and/or alcohol use? The short list includes:

  • Behavioral issues
    • Changes in relationships with family members or friends
    • Mood changes or emotional instability
    • Withdrawn or depressed; uncommunicative
    • Periods of sleeplessness or high energy, followed by long periods of sleeping
  • Absenteeism or loss of interest in school or extracurricular activities
  • Failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or home
  • Disappearance of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as alcohol or money
  • Personal appearance, habits or action changes
    • Poor hygiene and personal care
    • Track marks on arms or legs
    • Frequently breaking curfew
    • Using over-the-counter eye reddening washes and/or breath mints and gum more frequently

ExperTox supports both parents and schools through its drug and alcohol testing services designed to target those most vulnerable areas of substance abuse by youth and teens. Alternative specimen testing options allow for drug detection over varying time periods, from recent use to six months or more, including oral fluid, blood, urine, hair and nails.

These tests include:

  • Drug Tests
  • Alcohol Tests
  • Synthetic Opiates such as Hydrocodone and Oxycodone (OxyContin)

How To Collect a Hair Specimen for a Hair Drug Test

People are surprised when they have their first hair drug test.  They are unsure of the procedure and are surprised by the amount of hair that must be collected.  To complete both a drug screen and a confirmation on a presumptive positive screen result, we need a hair sample that is approximately the width of a Sharpie marker.  Lengthwise, 1/2″ of hair equals 30 days.  A common hair test is for 90 days, so the hair must be at least 1 1/2″ in length.  ExperTox can test for longer periods of time – it all depends on the length of the Donor’s hair.

We decided to show you how it is done so there will be no surprises if you must have this type of test completed.  Check out our own Lou Ann Enis, Registered Nurse and Occupational Health Supervisor, as she walks us through the steps.

Let us know if you have any questions or comments!

How Concerned Are You About Purchasing or Renting a Former Meth Lab?

With the new season of “Breaking Bad” that started in March, there seems to be a lot of discussion regarding former methamphetamine labs that are set up in apartments and houses. The Drug Enforcement Agency has seized a number of these meth labs, and has listed the addresses of these houses on their  National Clandestine Laboratory Register. However, we have received a few inquiries from individuals that are concerned they may have purchased a former “kitchen”. If the DEA is seizing these facilities, why are they worried?

Unlike many other drugs, the production of methamphetamine is extremely toxic, and its byproducts linger, either as waste or residue on the property for a long time, depending on the types of chemicals used, their concentration, quantity and the length of time they were “cooking”. A homeowner or lessor may not understand the environmental impact or toxic effects of these labs, and may choose to remove all equipment and chemicals without notifying law enforcement, then just ventilate the residence and complete standard repairs such as carpet replacement and painting. Residues linger in air vents, HVAC systems, drywall and even concrete.

Here’s an interesting fact gathered from the The Partnership For Drug-Free America website – one (1) pound of methamphetamine produces 5 to 6 pounds of toxic waste, oftentimes poured down the drain or directly into the ground. If proper toxic cleanup does not occur, future residents may suffer from a wide array of symptoms, including a lingering cough and chest pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and decreased motor skills. The long-term effects may include cancer, organ damage and birth defects.

The fact is, meth production in the U.S. is small potatoes compared to the international super labs; however, “mom and pop” shops do exist, in all economic levels. Meth houses have been found in trailers, as well as expensive homes. So, are average home buyers really concerned? If so, what steps are you taking to avoid purchasing a former meth house? If not, why?

We appreciate your input and look forward to learning from you.

A Meth Lab In My Community? No Way!

For the past week my nose has been running, eyes burning and all the seasonal symptoms of spring allergies.  It is almost March in Texas, so this is to be expected.  Off I go to my local pharmacy to pick up Zirtec-D, which you must get from the pharmacy area.  The technician looked at me, reminded me there is a limit on how much I could purchase, then asked for my I.D., giving me another look-over.  “Miss Goody-Two-Shoes” was feeling a little dirty with the evil-eye look.

Why?  Well, the medicine I need to control my allergies is the same medicine used in meth labs – pseudoephedrine.  I then remembered a recent workshop I attended, hosted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Houston Division.  Our presenter told us that the Conroe area in Montgomery County has the highest number of methamphetamine labs in the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area.  Guess who just happens to live in this area?  Moi.  Now I was glad my technician was taking her job so seriously.

Methamphetamine is bad in more ways than one.  Addiction and behaviors associated to its use are not the extent – it affects children (from ingestion/inhalation to child and sexual abuse), our neighborhoods and safety.  I feel for apartment owners, landlords and mortgage companies that own residences where meth labs were located.  They are now faced with expensive toxic clean-up from the residue.

We want to share an eye-opening video with you, “Meth:  A Social Plague”.  You might be surprised that meth labs and users are not just in lower-class neighborhoods.  They hide in middle to upper-class areas because no one suspects.  Become informed and watch this video directed by Joel Smith.

Video Link:

Keeping Up With the Trends: Substance Abuse Has Changed. Shouldn’t Your Workplace Drug Testing Program?

Although I am reluctant to admit it at my young age of 44, I read an article in an AARP magazine. It caught my eye on the coffee table because it boasted a list of the top 50 drugs prescribed in 2008. Hydrocodone (a pain reliever) topped the list, and amongst the top ten which consisted of antibiotics, cholesterol medications and hypertension drugs was Alprazolam (for depression) at number nine. I found the list to be painfully depressing, no pun intended.

 A recent SAMHSA Report asked past year nonmedical users of prescription drugs how they obtained the drugs. Can you believe that over half of the nonmedical users of prescription-type pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives said they got the drugs they used most recently “from a friend or relative for free.” In a follow-up question, the majority of these respondents indicated that their friend or relative had obtained the drugs from one doctor.

 It makes me wonder why the most commonly used drug tests do not detect either of these drugs. Wouldn’t it be worth it to find out if these seemingly “easy access” meds have made it into your workforce?

Is drug testing a good idea? Sure I think we can get a consensus on that. Employer drug testing programs not only save employers money by earning them discounts on their worker’s compensation premiums, they also protect the owners from the possibility of having a liability on the job. But once an employer decides to implement a program, how do they know they are creating a robust testing program with options that increase the chance of catching users?

Here’s what I think. A robust program needs to include not only pre employment testing, but random testing also. A recent Quest Diagnostics study backs this up. It also needs to include random specimen type testing so that the detection time for the test may not be known by the donor in advance. Oral fluid, urine and hair testing should be part of the program.

Also, employers need to begin testing for more than just the standard five (Marijuana, Cocaine, Phencyclidine, Amphetamines and Opiates). An underemphasized fact is that the standard five mentioned above, although it does include Opiates, it will not detect Hydrocodone. In most cases, this must be ordered separately.

So, with all of those choices out there, how can an employer screen out the potential liabilities?

  • Utilize a robust pre-employment test including an oral fluid, urine and hair specimens. Combined, this will give a 90 day window into the applicant’s past.
  • Test for more than the standard five drugs mentioned above. ExperTox offers the most robust product line of hair testing that will include the above mentioned synthetic opiate (Hydrocodone) and Benzodiazepine (Alprazolam) class drugs.
  • Random testing of at least 50% of the workforce yearly

Incorporating this into the workplace testing program may sound complicated and expensive. But with the help of providers like Any Lab Test Now and ExperTox, your drug testing needs can be evaluated and performed at an affordable cost. The money you spend on your drug testing program will protect your assets and improve productivity.

And now, I think it is time for me to go to the book store and improve my coffee table literature to something more suiting a youngster like me!

By Laura Bradbury, Toxicology Manager at Any Lab Test Now 

Thanks Laura and Any Lab Test Now for being our guest blogger this week.  Excellent points!

Arsenic Poisoning – Beyond Medieval Political Assassinations

I began getting Google News Alerts using the keyword “poisoning” about five months ago.  I am amazed at all the news articles that share stories of intentional poisoning, from a neighbor adding antifreeze to a pet’s water in “in revenge”, to the woman who mixed up a special margarita cocktail to poison her boyfriend.  And then there is the case of the arsenic-tainted coffee at a university.  The list goes on.  Couple these local news events with the inquiries we receive in the laboratory and you might be baffled at the prevalence of poisoning suspicion.

One of the most common “poisons of choice” is arsenic.  Arsenic has been used for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes to political assassinations.  There is an interesting, fact-filled article on the use of arsenic throughout history.  However, arsenic is not fun – it is dangerous.  This heavy metal is now most commonly seen in certain occupations that include but are not limited to:

  • Smelting
  • Wood preservation
  • Glass production
  • Electronic semiconductor manufacturing
  • Working with pesticides

Certain areas of the world, including the United States, have water sources that are known to naturally have high concentrations of arsenic.  And then there are the incidences of attempted murder – spouse poisoning spouse; boyfriend tainting the food or drink of a girlfriend; child poisoning a parent; an act of revenge.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning?  You may at first think you have the flu or a virus, but then the symptoms don’t go away and get worse over time.  Watch for:

  • Violent stomach pains
  • Clammy sweats
  • Garlic smell on your breath or sweat
  • Sweat may have an orange tint
  • Excessive saliva production
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Dryness and tightness in the throat
  • Thirst
  • Hoarseness and/or difficult with speech
  • Convulsions

If you suspect you are being poisoned, you can contact your local Poison Control Center, such as our friends at the Southeast Texas Poison Control Center.  You will also want to visit your doctor and share your concerns and symptoms with him or her.  If all else fails, call us – we can test both biological specimens as well as liquids, food (including pet food), or items with residue for a particular poison or through an unknown poisons and toxins analysis.  Tests can be conducted using blood, urine or even hair when suspected exposure is more long-term.

Teen Drug Use and a Parent’s Dilemma

Fact:  Illegal drug use by teens  is prevalent and a major concern for all parents.  According to Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), in a 2005 survey one-half (50%) of all teens have tried an illicit drug by the time they finish high school with 15.5% of youths ages 12 – 17  indicating they were approached by someone selling drugs within the last month. 

 Now, couple the direct concerns associated with drug use and abuse with an additional parent dilemma – how their reactions may affect their relationship with their child.  No parent wants to believe their son or daughter may be experimenting with or using drugs.  Suspicions arise due to:

  •  Significant changes in behavior, grades at school and relationships
  • Choices in friends and peer groups
  • Pieces of evidence, such as if a teen smells like marijuana smoke after going out with his or her friends, or finding pills, powders or residues in their room, car or personal belongings
  • Prescription drugs, money or other valuables missing from the home

Trust is a real factor.  When a parent fears breaking a bond of trust with his or her child because they may be wrong, they subconsciously hold off on addressing the possible drug use issue.  The reality is this – once a person makes an assumption, doesn’t their level of trust and associated behavior change anyway?  How will a mother or father feel if their child is involved in a serious car accident, thrown in jail for possession or theft, or any other life-changing event due to drug impairment or use when they suspected but did nothing about their suspicions?

Keeping an open line of communication and making decisions based on facts is critical to a healthy relationship, as well as reducing the chances of drug use by your teen.  To learn more about how to talk to your teen about drugs and what to do if you suspect drug use, check out these resource websites:

One Source…Numerous Options…Differences That Matter!

ExperTox® is a recognized forensic toxicology laboratory, combining advanced technology and science with a human heart.

We use our scientific expertise to provide our customers answers to their substance abuse, use and exposure questions.

We focus our personal character on supporting, caring for and understanding what our clients are going through as they contemplate and proceed through the testing process.

Our Tweets

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 17 other followers