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Potential pitfalls with hair follicle drug tests

An Alaska parent going through a custody dispute will sometimes make allegations of drug use by the other parent in building a case for full custody. However, it is important to realize that the type of testing used by the court system could undermine such a claim. Although hair follicle testing is an option for identifying more than just very recent use of a substance, there is the potential for a false positive result in the case of cannabis.

Researchers in Germany have found that traces of the drug can be present in the hair of an individual who has not used cannabis. This may occur because of exposure to smoke. It might also occur due to direct contact with a cannabis user through hand contact or sweat. Because this possibility exists, a positive reading after a hair follicle test might be challenged. In fact, it has been estimated that more than 200,000 false positive tests for cannabis occurred in 2014 throughout the United States. However, child custody situations were not included in these numbers.

Hair follicle testing might still be considered ideal for identifying the long-term use of other substances in connection with challenges to an individual's fitness as a parent. Additionally, further testing might be ordered to corroborate hair follicle drug tests. The testimony of witnesses might also be used to support a claim of parental drug use.

In building a case for custody, a parent might want to include additional issues aside from drug use. A lawyer might request drug testing during court proceedings to deal with this allegation, or a judge might order this action based on the details brought forth. In some cases, both parents might be required to submit to the same type of testing. A positive result might not assure a parent of a given custody outcome as a judge could allow a parent who tests positive for certain drugs to have an opportunity to rehabilitate prior to any final custody decision.

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