Drug testing with alternative matrices II. Mechanisms of cocaine and codeine deposition in hair

J Anal Toxicol. 1999 Oct;23(6):396-408. doi: 10.1093/jat/23.6.396.


A 10-week inpatient study was performed to evaluate cocaine, codeine, and metabolite disposition in biological matrices collected from volunteers. An initial report described drug disposition in plasma, sebum, and stratum corneum collected from five African-American males. This report focuses on drug disposition in hair and sweat collected from the same five subjects. Following a three-week washout period, three doses of cocaine HCl (75 mg/70 kg, subcutaneous) and three doses of codeine SO4 (60 mg/70 kg, oral) were administered on alternating days in week 4 (low-dose week). The same dosing sequence was repeated in week 8 with doubled doses (high-dose week). Hair was collected by shaving the entire scalp once each week. Hair from the anterior vertex was divided into two portions. One portion was washed with isopropanol and phosphate buffer; the other portion was not washed. Hair was enzymatically digested, samples were centrifuged, and the supernatant was collected. Sweat was collected periodically by placing PharmChek sweat patches on the torso. Drugs were extracted from sweat patches with methanol/0.2 M sodium acetate buffer (75:25, v/v). Supernatants from hair digests, hair washes, and sweat patch extracts were processed by solid-phase extraction followed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis for cocaine, codeine, 6-acetylmorphine, and metabolites. Cocaine and codeine were the primary analytes identified in sweat patches and hair. Drugs were detected in sweat within 8 h after dosing, and drug secretion primarily occurred within 24 h after dosing. No clear relationship was observed between dose and drug concentrations in sweat. Drug incorporation into hair appeared to be dose-dependent. Drugs were detected in hair within 1-3 days after the last drug administration; peak drug concentrations generally occurred in the following 1-2 weeks; thereafter, drug concentrations decreased. Solvent washes removed 50-55% of cocaine and codeine from hair collected 1-3 days after the last drug dose. These data may reflect removal of drug that was deposited by sweat shortly after dosing. Drug removed by washing hair collected 1-3 weeks after the last dose was minimal for cocaine but variable for codeine. Drug in these specimens was likely transferred from blood to germinative hair cells followed by emergence of drug in growing hair. These findings suggest that drug deposition in hair occurs by multiple mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cocaine / administration & dosage
  • Cocaine / analysis*
  • Cocaine / metabolism
  • Codeine / administration & dosage
  • Codeine / analysis*
  • Codeine / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morphine Derivatives / analysis
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Sweat / chemistry*
  • Time Factors


  • Morphine Derivatives
  • Cocaine
  • 6-O-monoacetylmorphine
  • Codeine