Fingernails, like hair, are made of the protein keratin and are tested with the same process at some facilities. The problem with testing for drugs using fingernail clippings is that the elements in the blood are turned into keratin during metabolism and therefore are no longer present in their individual parts. Hair, however, retains the memory and the atomic structure of whatever has been ingested and keeps a record, much as the rings on a tree do.
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The method of screening for drug use in a fingernail test is the five panel, Enzyme Multiple Immunoassay Test (EMIT). The fingernail is put in a chemical solution to rid the nail of external contaminants and is then liquefied.