By Lawrence Wilson, MD

© December 2015, The Center for Development


Recreational drug use is a common problem in most nations of the world.  It can be difficult to identify.  Common methods of testing for drugs involve urine tests and blood tests.  However, clever people can foil these tests, at times.

Drugs also settle in the hair, and a few labs offer hair testing for drug use.  This is a different test than hair mineral testing, which only tests for minerals. 

In some cases, a hair mineral analysis can be helpful as a screening test for drug use.  The patterns listed below are often hints that a person is using recreational drugs.




1. Hair cadmium level greater than 0.09 mg%.  This indicates that a person is exposed to excess cadmium.  Cadmium is found in tobacco cigarettes, marijuana, and in rolling paper used to make marijuana or tobacco cigarettes.  The only other common cause of elevated cadmium is occupational exposure to this metal, and this is fairly rare.


2. Calcium/magnesium ratio greater than about 13.5.  This indicates a lifestyle issue that is interfering with one’s health.  Drug use is a common cause for the elevation of this ratio.  Other causes to rule out are homosexuality, abusive relationships, and, in a few cases, bad attitudes will cause the ratio to elevate.


3. Copper less than about 0.6 mg%.  This is a very low copper level.  So far, (in 2015) I have only found it in people who are using stimulant drugs such as cocaine.




Please note the following with the indicators above:


1. The indictors are mainly valid on an initial hair mineral test.  They are less valid on retests.  The reason is that on a retest, a toxic metal level can rise very high due to an elimination of that metal.  This is not due to drug use, however.  Therefore, elevated cadmium on a retest is not as reliable an indicator of drug use.

2. If possible, rule out other causes for all the patterns below, except perhaps the low copper level, because none of the patterns below are exclusively caused by drug use.

3. Usually, the person must be actively using a drug for the pattern to be present.  Drug use in the past, for example, may not cause the pattern.



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