Robert G. Smith, PLLC

Hair strand drug tests are unreliable, study shows

Child custody cases in New York sometimes involve allegations that one parent is smoking marijuana. If the parent is tested for drug use with a hair strand test, there is a great chance that the test could produce a false positive. According to a new study by the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Germany, people who have not consumed marijuana may collect drug metabolites in their hair follicles from marijuana smoke or the hands of a person who has smoked marijuana.

False positives from a hair strand test could result in a parent being denied custody or forced to endure supervised visitation with their children. Even if the last time that a person smoked marijuana was months previously, the person will likely test positive for marijuana use after undergoing a hair strand test.

In the United States, hair strand tests are not as commonly used as urine tests when a person is suspected of using drugs. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said that urine-based drug testing is the only drug testing method that is used by SAMHSA.

A parent who is being accused of illegal drug use during a child custody dispute may want to have representation from a family law attorney. An attorney may be able to advocate for the parent's rights by pointing out the flaws in drug testing methods or disputing the validity of drug test results. If the accusing parent is making drug use accusations in an attempt to gain sole custody, an attorney may argue that this would not be in the child's best interests.

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