Random Plus Student Drug Testing Program
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
In keeping with the School's mission to prepare students for a significant life, the EHS Board of Trustees approved the adoption of the Random Plus Drug Testing Program several years ago, aimed at achieving a drug-free environment. Working in concert with the Choices program of education and counseling, the drug-testing program is based on the premise that drug-testing serves as a deterrent to the use of drugs, giving students a means to resist peer pressure, thereby reducing use. The program also helps to identify students who are using drugs so that they can be referred for assessment, counseling, and treatment.
Episcopal High School has engaged the Psychemedics Corporation to conduct hair testing for drugs (and alcohol for those who so choose) beginning in the fall of 2015. All students will be in the pool for random selection for drug testing. Those who are randomly selected for drug testing will also be tested for alcohol (chronic, excessive use) if their parents have selected that option. All results for alcohol tests will be reported only to the parents.
The following are questions and answers, compiled with the assistance of Psychemedics, regarding drug testing in general and hair testing in particular.
Virtual RPSDT Session:
Associate Head of School Nancy Eisenberg hosted the annual Random Plus Student Drug Testing (RPSDT) Virtual Parent Information Session on September 24. The virtual information session focused on details about EHS's drug testing program and a presentation on substance abuse from our guest speaker Dr. John O'Neill from the Menninger Clinic.
What is the purpose of student drug testing?
As a part of a comprehensive drug abuse prevention program, student drug testing helps EHS accomplish our overall goal of a drug-free school. The intent of this program is not to punish students but to deter drug use and to intervene with parents and students when needed.
How does drug testing help students?
The program serves as a deterrent to the use of illegal drugs and to provide students with a reason to resist peer pressure and refuse invitations to drug usage.
Who will be tested?
All students at EHS will be subject to the random drug test.
Will participation be required?
Yes. Students must participate if they would like to remain at Episcopal High School.
How will students be randomly selected?
Students will be assigned ID numbers. Using a computer-generated random selection program, we will provide a list of students to be tested. The list of student names and their ID numbers will be kept in a confidential file maintained by a designated EHS administrator.
What is hair testing?
Hair testing analyzes for drugs within the hair shaft, rather than body fluids like urine or saliva, to determine whether drugs of abuse are present. Compared to analysis of body fluids, hair testing is highly resistant to evasion by adulterating or substituting samples, or by simply abstaining from drug use for a few days. Psychemedics' patented method for detecting drugs in hair uses immunoassay and state-of-the-art GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS confirmation to measure the drug molecules and metabolites permanently entrapped in hair which were incorporated following ingestion. This technology offers significantly greater detection ability than other methods of analyzing hair or body fluids.
Who is using hair testing?
Thousands of corporations use Psychemedics' test to screen applicants and perform random drug tests on their employees. Schools have been using the Psychemedics test since 1997 to help their students stay drug-free. Courts routinely use the Psychmedics test in their probation, parole, and diversionary programs. The use of hair is well established, and Psychemedics has been conducting hair tests since 1987.
What drugs are included in a standard test?
Cocaine, Marijuana, Opiates (including Heroin, Codeine, Morphine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Hydromorphone), Methamphetamine, Ecstasy (MOMA), Eve (MDEA) and Phencyclidine (PCP).
Will the test screen for ADD/ADHD medications?
No. The test will not screen for ADD/ADHD medications.
What is the procedure if the test picks up a drug for which the student has a prescription?
If the student tests positive for a medication included in the drug panel for which he/she has a prescription, a representative of the testing company will call the parent and ask to have a copy of the prescription faxed to the testing company. When the prescription is received and confirmed, the result reported to the School will be a negative.
What time period does a standard test cover?
A standard test of one-and-one-half inches of head hair cut close to the scalp can provide a several month window to detect drug ingestion.
How fast does head hair grow?
Studies indicate that hair collected at the crown of the head grows on the average approximately 1.3 cm (or ½ inch) per month. This growth rate may vary among people; consequently the same 3.9 cm length of hair may represent slightly different time periods.
How does hair analysis compare to urinalysis?
The primary difference is the wider window of detection with hair. Cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates and PCP are rapidly excreted and usually undetectable in urine 72 hours after use. Rather than the hours or days covered by a body fluid test, a hair test covers a period of months, ensuring that a drug user cannot evade the test by simply abstaining for a few days. Additional advantages include: non-intrusive collection procedures, virtual elimination of test evasion through substitution or adulteration, and greater accuracy through test repetition capability. The combination of an increased window of detection and resistance to evasion makes hair testing far more effective than urinalysis in correctly identifying drug users.
How soon after use can a drug be detected in hair?
It takes approximately 5-7 days from the time of drug use for the portion of the hair containing that drug to grow above the scalp.
What is the shortest time period that can accurately be evaluated?
In most situations the minimum time period is approximately one month. A hair test does not determine drugs used on a particular day or week.
How sensitive is hair testing in detecting drug users?
Comparison studies have proven that the Psychemedics test is up to 5-10 times more effective in identifying drug users than urinalysis. In other words, 85% of the drug users identified by a Psychemedics test could get through a urine screen.
How does Psychemedics establish its cut-off levels?
These levels are based on field studies that establish the presence of the drugs following ingestion. These levels are included in Psychemedics' FDA submissions, and are similar to the cut-off levels mandated in several state hair testing regulations and contained in the 2004 proposed SAMHSA mandatory guidelines.
How much hair is needed?
Psychemedics' standard screen, along with GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS confirmation, usually requires a cosmetically undetectable lock of hair preferably snipped from the back of the head, just below the crown. A section of top hair is clipped up so that the hair can be snipped from underneath. 50 mg. is needed for drug testing and 75 mg. for the combined drug and alcohol testing. 50 mg. is about a ½ inch wide and one or two layers deep. It's about 60 hairs. (We normally shed about 100 hairs per day.) In general, the amount needed, if squeezed together, is the thickness of a shoelace tip.
Can tests be run on people with little or no hair?
Yes. Hair can be collected from several locations on the head and combined to obtain the required amount of hair. If head hair is not available, certain body hair can be used as an alternative.
Can students with short hair be tested?
Yes. As long as the hair is at least half an inch, it can be snipped. The collector may have to take multiple snippings from different parts of the head. If the hair is too short to cut, the collector will use body (arm, leg, or underarm) hair, which grows much more slowly than head hair, and, therefore, the sample can be shorter in length but still measure 90 days or more.
Can hair collected from a brush be used?
No. Psychemedics requires a hair sample to be collected using the proper chain-of-custody protocols that will withstand a legal challenge. Psychemedics requires that the sample be submitted with Psychemedics Sample Acquisition Materials. The test subject must initial the sample container to certify the authenticity of the sample at the time of collection.
What about a student who has shaved his head and body?
Unless the student has a verified medical condition, a student who presents with no head or body hair will be considered positive for drugs.
Does chemical treatment of the hair affect the test results?
Commonly used hair procedures (e.g., shampoos, conditioners, sprays, mousses and gels) have no significant effect on results. In fact, normal hair washing helps to remove external contamination. Normal hair treatments such as bleaching, perming and dyeing generally will not significantly lower the quantitative results. If the protein matrix of the hair has been damaged to the point of breaking (cortex damage), the level of drug can be significantly affected. However, severely treated or damaged hair can be readily identified from the wash ratios and/or staining procedure.
Is there a risk that the results of a hair test can be affected by environmental contamination?
Psychemedics utilizes several independent approaches which, in various combinations, rule out the possibility of a positive result from external contamination. The first method involves extensive chemical washing of the hair specimen prior to screening, followed by analysis of the content of the wash and application of certain wash criteria. This wash analysis is a critical step to ensure that any contamination is effectively accounted for. Additionally, Psychemedics measures the presence of metabolites. If drugs were in the air or on a person's hands and thereby got on a person's hair from outside, the drug would be normally present as the drug substance itself, and not as certain metabolites or with metabolite/parent drug ratios which are usually produced by ingestion. Psychemedics' wash criteria along with its ability to distinguish and measure metabolites with its highly sensitive GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS equipment is critical to eliminate the possibility of false positives from external contamination. In addition, any positive inadvertent ingestion (e.g., from passive inhalation or even poppy seed consumption) is distinguished from deliberate drug use by setting GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS cut-off levels above those which can be produced by passive internal exposure. Studies have shown that the combination of extensive washing, metabolite analysis, and proper cut-off levels are necessary to avoid false positives due to external contamination or passive ingestion.
Does Psychemedics perform confirmation of all positive results?
Psychemedics provides automatic confirmation for samples which screen positive. Psychemedics uses state of the art GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS.
What is done with the excess hair that is not tested?
All remaining hair is stored in the chain-of-custody sample acquisition pouch. Negative hair is stored for approximately 1month. Positive hair is stored for five years.
How long are positive test result reports kept on file?
Laboratory records and test results are kept for a five-year period.
Will over-the-counter medications cause a positive result?
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications, if taken as instructed on the packaging, should not cause a positive test result. A positive test result is possible if OTC medications are misused.
What happens if a student refuses to take the test?
Refusal to take the test will be considered a positive test result and treated accordingly.
Will parents have a chance to get their student's positive results re-tested?
Students who test positive may request a second test. Parents have 72 hours to request the confirmation test in writing to the Assistant Head of School. The student's family is responsible for any costs associated with the re-test of the original sample collected.
Are drug test results kept in a student's academic file?
No. Drug testing records are kept separate from all academic and other records.
What happens if a student tests positive for drugs?
The student and parents will be asked to meet with the Assistant Head of School who will ask for an evaluation by a medical professional approved by the School and a release so that student progress can be monitored. Discontinued drug use will be verified by further testing. If the student tests positive a second time, he or she will face dismissal.
Who will receive positive results for students signed up for alcohol testing?
Only parents will receive results for alcohol testing.