Sweat testing for cocaine, codeine and metabolites by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry

J Chromatogr B Biomed Sci Appl. 1999 Oct 15;733(1-2):247-64. doi: 10.1016/s0378-4347(99)00246-7.


Sweat testing for drugs of abuse provides a convenient and considerably less invasive method for monitoring drug exposure than blood or urine. Numerous devices have been developed for collection of sweat specimens. The most common device in current use is the PharmChek Sweat Patch, which usually is worn by an individual for five to ten days. This device has been utilized in several field trials comparing sweat test results to conventional urinalysis and the results have been favorable. Two new Fast Patch devices have been developed and tested that allow rapid collection of sweat specimens. The Hand-held Fast Patch was applied to the palm of the hand and the Torso Fast Patch was applied to the abdomen or the sides of the trunk (flanks) of volunteer subjects participating in a research study. Both patches employed heat-induced sweat stimulation and a larger cellulose pad for increased drug collection. Sweat specimens were collected for 30 min at various times following administration of cocaine or codeine in controlled dosing studies. After patch removal, the cellulose pad was extracted with sodium acetate buffer, followed by solid-phase extraction. Extracts were derivatized and analyzed by gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) simultaneously for cocaine, codeine and metabolites. Cocaine and codeine were the primary analytes detected in sweat. Peak cocaine and codeine concentrations ranged from 33 to 3579 ng/patch and 11 to 1123 ng/patch, respectively, across all doses for the Hand-held Patch compared to 22-1463 ng/patch and 12-360 ng/patch, respectively, for the Torso Fast Patch. Peak concentrations generally occurred 4.5-24 h after dosing. Both drugs could be detected for at least 48 h after dosing. Considerably smaller concentrations of metabolites of cocaine and codeine were also present in some patches. Generally, concentrations of cocaine and codeine were higher in sweat specimens collected with the Hand-held Fast Patch than for the Torso Fast Patch. Drug concentrations were also considerably higher than those reported for the PharmChek Sweat Patch. The predominance of cocaine and codeine in sweat over metabolites is consistent with earlier studies of cocaine and codeine secretion in sweat. Multiple mechanisms appear to be operative in determining the amount of drug and metabolite secreted in sweat including passive diffusion from blood into sweat glands and outward transdermal migration of the drug. Additional important factors are the physico-chemical properties of the drug analyte, specific characteristics of the sweat collection device, site of sweat collection and, in this study, the application of heat to increase the amount of drug secreted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage
  • Cocaine / analysis*
  • Cocaine / metabolism
  • Codeine / administration & dosage
  • Codeine / analysis*
  • Codeine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Specimen Handling / methods
  • Sweat / chemistry*


  • Cocaine
  • Codeine