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Analysis of Drugs of Abuse in Human Hair: Surface Contamination and Localization of Analysis

NCJ Number
Megan Grabenauer; Nicole D. Bynum; Katherine N. Moore
Date Published
November 2015
28 pages
This study examined the effects of environmental contamination of human hair from the external deposition of methamphetamine and heroin that can be identified in tests for drug use.

This research stems from the possibility of environmental contamination to law enforcement personnel who enter clandestine methamphetamine laboratories in the course of their work. Methamphetamine has been confirmed as a major contaminant associated with clandestine methamphetamine laboratories. The current research had four objectives. One objective was to determine whether methamphetamine and heroin can be adequately removed from hair by using an extended aqueous phosphate buffer decontamination procedure. A second objective was to determine whether the drug can be removed from the hair or prove resistant to removal over time and with normal hygienic treatment of the hair. A third objective was to determine the extent to which normal hygienic treatment and the extended aqueous phosphate buffer decontamination procedure affect measurable levels of methamphetamine and heroin in hair from drug users who have ingested these compounds. A fourth objective was to determine whether several imaging techniques could be used to localize the site of incorporation of the drugs into hair as an indicator of the route of incorporation. The study found that contaminating blank hair with only methamphetamine and heroin produced measurable levels of their respective metabolites. It was determined that basing positive testing results solely on the presence of metabolites is insufficient to rule out possible contributions from external contamination. In addition, the testing showed that decontamination alone is probably insufficient to remove metabolites deposited on hair through external contamination. This report recommends that further studies, using larger sample sizes, be conducted to determine a valid route for identifying methamphetamine and heroin contamination. Appended description of materials and methods