Hair testing of GHB: an everlasting issue in forensic toxicology

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In this paper, the authors present a critical review of different studies regarding hair testing of endogenous γ-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), concentrations in chronic users, and values measured after a single GHB exposure in drug facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) cases together with the role of a recently identified GHB metabolite, GHB-glucuronide.


The following databases (up to March 2017) PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science were used, searching the following key words: γ-hydroxybutyrate, GHB, GHB glucuronide, hair. The main key words “GHB” and “γ-hydroxybutyrate” were searched singularly and then associated individually to each of the other keywords.


Of the 2304 sources found, only 20 were considered appropriate for the purpose of this paper. Summing up all the studies investigating endogenous GHB concentration in hair, a very broad concentration range from 0 to 12 ng/mg was found. In order to detect a single GHB dose in hair it is necessary to commonly wait 1 month for collecting hair and a segmental analysis of 3 or 5 mm fragments and the calculation of a ratio between the targeted segment and the others represent a reliable method to detect a single GHB intake considering that the ratios presently proposed vary from 3 and 10. The only two studies so far performed, investigating GHB-Glucuronide in hair, show that the latter does not seem to provide any diagnostic information regarding GHB exposure.


A practical operative protocol is proposed to be applied in all suspected cases of GHB-facilitated sexual assault (GHB-FSA).

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