Laboratory steps up hair-testing for drugs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 December, 2010, 12:00am

The Government Laboratory has new hair-testing equipment to detect drugs, providing an extra option for schools taking part in voluntary drug tests next year.

A hair test pilot scheme yielded positive results, Commissioner for Narcotics Sally Wong said yesterday.

More than 10 social services received free hair tests in the half-year project and thought the new method was helpful, she said.

Up to last week, 162 samples had been collected from them, of which 46 were positive. Most of the drug-takers used ketamine.

The tests can also detect cocaine, marijuana, ketamine, Ecstasy, Ice and cough medicine.

The laboratory's existing equipment could perform 100 hair tests a week, which has been doubled after the acquisition of the equipment, worth HK$6.3 million. They can now process 5,000 samples a year.

Schools taking part in the school-based drug-testing scheme can choose to use urine tests or the new hair test, which costs a lot more.

A quick urine test costs HK$10, while a full analysis is about HK$180. One hair test can cost up to HK$1,000.

'To be able to more effectively discourage young people from taking drugs is worth the money. It can't be measured against the HK$1,000,' Wong said.

Secondary schools will be given funds next year to conduct voluntary drug-testing of students after a trial in Tai Po was considered successful.

A strand of hair cut from near the crown can show whether the person has taken drugs in the previous three months. Results are normally available in three days.