Applications of Hair Analysis in Criminal Justice and Rehabilitation Settings

Mieczkowski et al. (57) have reported on use of hair testing as an objective measure of drug treatment outcome in a criminal justice diversionary treatment program for first-time, nonviolent offenders. Violations of the program conditions, including drug use, result in dismissal from the program. Hair samples were taken at intake to the program and at approx 2-mo intervals during the program, with random urine testing also being employed. Hair analysis at intake showed 50 of the 91 subjects positive for cocaine, 35 for marijuana, 3 for opiates, 1 for PCP, and none for amphetamines. Urinalysis done at the same time showed 12 positive for cocaine, 24 for marijuana, 1 for opiates, and none for PCP or amphetamines. These results highlight the diagnostic value of hair analysis in assessing the status of subjects as they enter a rehabilitation setting.

In another study, Mieczkowski and Newel (44) reported that hair analysis detected cocaine use at three times the incidence indicated by interviews. Similar results were obtained by Feucht et al. in a study by the Task Force on Violent Crime (58), in which interviews, urinalysis, and hair analysis were performed. Hair results showed that 50 of 88 subjects (57%) had used cocaine, while urinalysis identified 8% as users, and interviews, 7.4%.

Magura et al. reported on the utility of hair analysis in determining the prevalence of cocaine use among criminally involved youth (59). Interviews and hair samples were collected from 121 male youths, who were followed up in their communities after release from jail. Of the hair specimens, 67% were positive for cocaine, with only 23% of the hair-positive subjects admitting to cocaine use during the previous 3 mo. Associations were found between cocaine use and several behavioral variables: prior number of arrests, re-arrest after release from jail, not continuing education, and no legal employment.

The effectiveness of hair as a diagnostic tool in drug treatment has been discussed by Brewer (60), who noted a good correlation between drug levels in hair and self reports of the amount of drug used. Perhaps owing to the evasion-resistant nature of a hair test, Brewer found that hair analysis was acceptable to both parties and resulted in an improved client-therapist relationship, frequently manifesting in more candid self-reporting of drug use prior to a scheduled hair test. Another contribution of hair testing to the therapeutic process is the ability to document improvement by segmental analysis or testing at regular intervals, a feature that only hair testing offers because of its ability to reflect dose over time.

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