Drug testing program snips out hair, peer pressure


Katie McManaman

Dean Fuja cuts a student's hair for drug testing.

Nobody wants to be drug and alcohol tested, but why? Is it an invasion of our privacy? Do the teachers and our own parents not trust us? What happens after Dean Fuja cuts our hair?

Drug testing is becoming more and more popular in government agencies, businesses, and schools throughout the nation. Parents, teachers, and staff members are working to monitor students’ usage of illegal substances. At the beginning of freshman year, even before attending classes, parents are asked to sign many forms. One of those forms gives the school permission to drug and alcohol test their kids.

At the beginning of each school year, students are called down during their lunch periods to get their hair cut. Every student gets drug tested and 20% are also alcohol tested. Students sign a form and are off. Most never receive the results, but a few do. Psychemedics is the drug testing facility where the hair is sent.

When the hair is sent in to the Psychemedics lab, it undergoes many cleaning processes and tests. The hair begins in an assentioning lab where it is weighed. The first screening process tells us if the hair is positive or negative. Negative samples move on without a second thought or test, but positive results are not so lucky. The positive hair is washed again and checked for external contamination (no one wants to be wrongly accused of taking drugs). Unlike other places, Physcemedics liquifies the hair and places it in a spectrometer where the final certification is given.

Although the process sounds lengthy, the entire process, as long as the hair is drug free, takes only one week. Some students are randomly tested for alcohol, wherein the process is the same, only completed twice through. New and innovative tests give options to test for vape and possibly cancer. The goal of drug testing is not to out people for the bad they are doing, but rather to avoid the negative impacts on young people’s minds and health. No one wants to live with schizophrenia from a decision they made when they were a teenager.

“Everyone makes bad decision sometimes in their life, [and] now people can see a significant effect after only one bad decision,” said Wil Elder, manager of the education division at Psychemedics.

Drug testing FAQs

What if a test comes back positive?
The hair undergoes the process several times to ensure the results are correct before notifying the school, student and guardian.
Whose hair is sent in?
All hair snippets are sent in. The school is legally bound to send all tests in to Psychemedics.
Is there any way to cheat the system?
No. Drugs stay in your system 90+ days, but will fade over time. Bleaching does nothing to the evidence in your hair.