Hair tests for drug abuse parents rise after death of Declan Hainey
PARENTS with drug and alcohol problems face the prospect of hair testing after interest in the procedure rose on the back of the Declan Hainey case.
Doctors say it is increasingly seen as a way of stopping addicts from “cheating the system”.
While testing urine and blood gives a short-term impression of someone’s drug or alcohol use, testing hair gives a six-month picture.
It provides an average figure for alcohol and a “ticker tape” of drug use – with one centimetre of hair representing one month – showing the rough dates at which drugs were taken.
Trimega Laboratories, which carries out about 13,000 hair tests a year in England and Wales, but until recently hardly any in Scotland, has noticed an upsurge.
It says professionals requesting them are quoting the tragic case of Declan Hainey. Declan was last seen alive when he was 15 months old. Eight months, later his emaciated body was found by relatives in his mother Kimberley’s flat in Bruce Road, Paisley.
Hainey, 37, a heroin addict, was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 15 years after being found guilty of murdering her son and concealing his body.
The case shocked Scotland and has forced those charged with child protection to re-evaluate how they test for parents’ problems with abuse.
Dr Paul Skett, a forensic pharmacologist, said: “I’ve done a couple of cases fairly recently. It’s [the hair test] something that is being used more regularly.”
He added: “Before, we’ve taken a sample blood test or urine test and people know how this works, and so they don’t take drugs for a week or so [beforehand].
“People try to cheat the system; hair testing ensures they can’t cheat it.”
Doctors commission or carry out the tests on behalf of people working in child protection, who are also increasingly interested in hair testing.
Ruth Stark, manager of the Scottish Association of Social Workers, said: “As an additional tool to work out whether someone is continuously using, yes, people are interested.”
Trimega is keen to break into the Scottish market. Douglas MacSween, general manager, said: “In the last three to four months there’s been a pick-up in interest from family law professionals, the courts themselves, sometimes psychologists and people involved in the placement of children.
“In the last few months, we’ve taken hair strands from six different parents [in Scotland], that’s a level of uptake we would never have expected to see 12 months ago.
“We are told it is all because of Declan Hainey.”
The Scottish Government is currently evaluating child protection practices.
A spokeswoman said: “We’re updating our good practice guidance for those working with children, young people and families affected by substance use. The consultation on this runs until September this year.”
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