Screening for Basic Drugs in Hair of Drug Addicts by Liquid Chromatography/Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry

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Hair analysis in forensic and clinical toxicology has been strongly focused on drugs of abuse, and comprehensive, drug class-independent screening methods based on mass spectrometric detection have not been applied to date. In this study, a qualitative drug screening method by liquid chromatography coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry, earlier developed and evaluated for forensic toxicological urine analysis, was adapted for screening of basic drugs in hair. The method included alkaline hydrolysis, purification with mixed-mode solid phase extraction, and analysis by liquid chromatography coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry with automated data analysis and reporting. Identification was based on accurate mass, isotopic pattern fit, and retention time, if available. Analysis of 32 hair samples from deceased drug addicts revealed 35 different drugs. The drug classes identified included antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, amphetamines, opioids, beta-blockers, a benzodiazepine, a hypnotic, a local anesthetic, an antiemetic, and an antipyretic analgesic. The findings were in good agreement with the findings in blood and urine by other methods. Moreover, information about previous drug use not evident in the analysis of other matrices was obtained in the majority (72%) of the cases. Tramadol was an especially predominant finding, suggesting tramadol abuse as an opioid substitute. One apparent false-positive finding was identified. The mean and median mass accuracies of positive findings were 2.3 and 1.8 ppm, corresponding to 0.5 and 0.4 mDa, respectively. Cutoff values for tramadol and methamphetamine in hair were 100 and 200 pg/mg, respectively. The method proved to be a simple and straightforward tool for comprehensive screening of basic drugs in hair.

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