The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (“SAMHSA”) published a Request For Information on May 29, 2015 that solicits comments about potential hair testing for drugs in an effort to revise and update standards for laboratory drug testing procedures for federal workers. Tasked by the Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA is looking to improve standards on the use of the best available technology for ensuring the reliability and accuracy of drug tests in the Mandatory Guidelines For Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. SAMHSA seeks information and comments on a variety of issues related to hair specimen drug testing, such as:

Hair Specimen:

  • What are the acceptable body locations from which to collect hair for workplace drug testing? What should be done if head hair is not available for collection?
  • What hair treatments (i.e., shampoo, conditioning, perm, relaxers, coloring, bleaching, straightening, hair transplant) influence drug concentration in hair and to what degree?
  • What are the acceptable reasons for hair testing (i.e., pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, other (fitness for duty, return to duty, etc.))?

Collection:

  • What training should a collector receive prior to collecting the hair specimen?
  • What is the best protocol to collect the hair specimen?
  • Should the hair collection protocol be standardized, including specific instructions on how close to cut the hair specimen to the skin, how to determine the authenticity of the hair specimen, what cutting instruments to use, how to ensure the cutting instruments are decontaminated, and whether the use of collection kits should be required?
  • What is the minimum amount of hair that should be collected?

 Analytes/Cutoffs:

  • What analytes should be measured in hair by the initial and confirmatory tests?
  • What initial and confirmation cutoffs should be used for the various hair drug testing analytes?

 Testing:

  • What technologies are available to perform initial and confirmatory testing on hair specimens?

Comments must be received by June 29, 2015, and may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=SAMHSA-2015-0003-0003.

This Request For Information follows DHHS’s May 15th notice regarding proposed guidelines for oral fluid testing. These proposed changes could allow the use of oral fluid and hair for testing federal employees and remove the current requirement for urine specimens only. Once final guidelines are issued, it will be up to the Department of Transportation to decide whether to adopt these new guidelines and publish new testing rules for regulated transportation employees.