Cansford Labs - Pioneering drug and alcohol testing

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Cansford Labs - Pioneering drug and alcohol testing

Hair Strand Drug Test

Experience unmatched efficiency and excellence with our UKAS-accredited Drug & Alcohol Testing. Get fast and accurate results in just 3 days.


A hair strand test for drugs and
alcohol is highly accurate
and is almost impossible to cheat.

The method can be used to detect virtually all drug and alcohol substances, between seven days and six months (or even longer if that’s what required) after their use. Test results also indicate the month in which someone took a substance, and so can be used to build a ‘picture’ of substance use over time.

Our hair strand testing is accredited by UKAS, the UK gold standard for labs

A small amount of hair is taken by a trained sample collector – usually from the head (we only need about a shoelace worth, less than many laboratories).

Fixing’ a hair test is exceptionally difficult. Dyeing or bleaching hair – or using any other chemical treatments – may damage the outer sheath of an individual’s hair, leading to drugs leaching from the hair.

The sensitivity of equipment used means that we are usually able to detect the remaining metabolites, and our scientists will take the condition of the hair into account to accurately report findings.

Should an individual’s hair be completely unsitable for testing, we can still use body hair or fingernails – for an accurate result.

Image 1: One of Cansford's lab technicians is processing a sample and checking its progress. Image 2. A lab technician is looking at results of testing in the lab. 3. A collector is taking a shoelace sized sample of hair from the back of the head, which will be not noticeable to others.

Today, Cansford Laboratories offers 90% of hair test results within 48 hours of receipt – the fastest hair testing service in the UK.

How does hair testing work?

When ingested, drugs and alcohol produce specific chemical markers in the body called metabolites. These markers pass into hair, which subsequently acts as a record of an individual’s drug or alcohol use.

The presence of the metabolites helps to prove that the compound was ingested by the donor, and not simply the result of external contamination – for example, another person using drugs in the donor’s presence.

Essentially, the time frame of detection required dictates the amount of hair required for the sample. If a court orders a hair test to assess drug use in the past 4 months, then 4 cm of hair will be analysed.

Hair takes around 7 days to grow out of the scalp – which is the minimum time window a hair test can detect. It may therefore be necessary to use hair testing in conjunction with blood and (oral fluid) saliva testing.

Hair typically grows at about one centimetre per month. When tested, each centimetre of hair therefore reflects one month’s history of drug use (or non-use). This is why hair strand testing is able to provide such a large window of detection, assessing drug use as far back as 6 months.

What you need to know about hair testing:

Detection window:

For alcohol, 7 days–6 months
For drugs, 7 days–indefinite (dependant on hair length)

Collection method:

A hair sample of around 5-millimetre thickness is taken from the head or body of the donor, and deposited in a sealed, tamper-proof envelope. This is sent to the laboratory for testing.


Exceptionally difficult to cheat

Indicates patterns of drug or alcohol use over weeks and months

Highly sensitive; highly accurate

Simple, non-invasive collection

Fast results turnaround, when performed by Cansford Laboratories.


Hair tests cannot precisely determine the quantity of substances used by the donor

Samples cannot indicate substance use less than 7 days after the incident.


“The service we received was very good, especially the turnaround time. The results were sent to the social worker and our solicitor and there have been no queries regarding the information provided”.

- Court Liaison Business Support Assistant

“I was very happy with the service you provided, and I will be returning for assistance of other case I have, the process was very smooth, and I was kept up to date throughout. The feedback from my client was also positive in relation to the collector who attended their property”.

- Fellow & Advocate of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives - Family / Child Care Department

“I confirm we were happy with the service we received from yourselves. From the start when I first asked for quotes until the actual report coming through the process has been efficient, professional, and easy to understand. I have your contact details on file and if the need should arise, we will not hesitate to use your services again”.

- Family Law Solicitors – Scotland

“I just wanted to say thank you – I have spoken to my client, and she says she gave a sample this morning and was happy with the way the collector lady dealt with the situation. The last time she gave a sample she was quite traumatised* so thank you and your team for dealing with the matter sensitively.”

- Family Law Partner and Consultant Solicitor – Southwest