Results of hair analyses for drugs of abuse and comparison with self-reports and urine tests

Forensic Sci Int. 2006 Jan 27;156(2-3):118-23. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2004.07.024.


Urine as well as head and pubic hair samples from drug abusers were analysed for opiates, cocaine and its metabolites, amphetamines, methadone and cannabinoids. Urine immunoassay results and the results of hair tests by means of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry were compared to the self-reported data of the patients in an interview protocol. With regard to the study group, opiate abuse was claimed from the majority in self-reports (89%), followed by cannabinoids (55%), cocaine (38%), and methadone (32%). Except for opiates the comparison between self-reported drug use and urinalysis at admission showed a low correlation. In contrast to urinalysis, hair tests revealed consumption in more cases. There was also a good agreement between self-reports of patients taking part in an official methadone maintenance program and urine test results concerning methadone. However, hair test results demonstrated that methadone abuse in general was under-reported by people who did not participate in a substitution program. Comparing self-reports and the results of hair analyses drug use was dramatically under-reported, especially cocaine. Cocaine hair tests appeared to be highly sensitive and specific in identifying past cocaine use even in settings of negative urine tests. In contrast to cocaine, hair lacks sensitivity as a detection agent for cannabinoids and a proof of cannabis use by means of hair analysis should include the sensitive detection of the metabolite THC carboxylic acid in the lower picogram range.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamines / analysis
  • Cannabinoids / analysis
  • Cocaine / analysis
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / analysis
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methadone / analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcotics / analysis*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Urinalysis


  • Amphetamines
  • Cannabinoids
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Narcotics
  • Cocaine
  • Methadone