Asana Recovery

What You Need to Know About Fingernail Drug Testing


If you were to wander on the street and ask random people about drug testing, they would probably mention urine, blood, saliva, or (to an extent) hair follicle inspections. After all, we are all familiar with a potential employer asking you to donate a sample of your bodily fluids for inspection just to make sure nothing toxic is pouring through your veins. So, have you ever heard of fingernail drug testing? Most likely, this is brand new information for you. After all, why would the clippings from thick, dead skin provide insight into potential drug abuse or addiction? We have only one word for you: proteins. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about fingernail drug testing.

Porous Drug Sponges

Like your hair, fingernails and toenails are built from keratinized proteins. They tend to be a little porous and soft, making them the perfect nesting ground for drug byproducts. Ultimately, these substances can become integrated in nail fibers through three ways:

  • Drugs flow through the bloodstream and are embedded in the nail root.
  • Sweat and oil (produced by the skin) secrete the toxins into the nail.
  • Handling drugs can result in absorption into the porous nail proteins.

Based on reports, the window of opportunity for scanning nails varies, with fingernails having a 3-6-month window and toenails having a time of 8-14 months (due to the fact that toenails take a longer time to grow than fingernails). As part of the analysis, an official will clip 2 to 3 centimeters of each nail (resulting in a 100-milligram sample) and run an immunoassay.

Alternative to Hair Testing

So why do doctors and officials prefer nail testing versus hair testing? First off, not everyone has the amount of hair required for test of this nature, making nail testing a universal alternative. Likewise, researchers are concerned that melanin (a dark pigment) could create a color bias in hair testing (not a problem for plain-colored nails). Also, nail testing does not breach a subject’s privacy and is much quicker and easier.

Nevertheless, these tests still have complications. Nails are in a continuous state of growth, which can be a bother to scientists who seek to determine when drug use began.

Seeking Treatment for Drug Abuse or Addiction   

Always remember that drugs do not have control over your life. You do. Are you suffering from a substance use disorder or a severe form of addiction? Do you have a friend or family member suffering from one or more of these debilitating illnesses? If you do, get in touch with Asana Recovery today. Our counselors and healthcare experts are ready to walk you through every step of the detox and withdrawal process and rehabilitation and guide you towards living a happier, healthier, and freer lifestyle. While the road to recovery might not be an easy road to travel, we promise to help you every step of the way. Take the first step to stay fit, healthy, and safe.

The time for you to take back control of your life is now. If you are interested in one of our residential treatment or supervised detoxification/withdrawal programs, we are ready and waiting to speak with you at your disclosure. Call Asana now at (949) 438-4504 to learn how to overcome your drug abuse or addiction troubles today.