Background: Clonazepam, diazepam, and alprazolam are benzodiazepines with sedative, anticonvulsant, and anxiolytic effects, but their prevalence in drug abuse and drug overdoses has long been recognized. When detection times for psychoactive drugs in oral fluid are reported, they are most often based on therapeutic doses administered in clinical studies. Repeated ingestions of high doses, as seen after drug abuse, are however likely to cause positive samples for extended time periods. Findings of drugs of abuse in oral fluid collected from imprisoned persons might lead to negative sanctions, and the knowledge of detection times of these drugs is thus important to ensure correct interpretation. The aim of this study was to investigate the time window of detection for diazepam, clonazepam, and alprazolam in oral fluid from drug addicts admitted to detoxification.
Methods: Twenty-five patients with a history of heavy drug abuse admitted to a detoxification ward were included. Oral fluid was collected daily in the morning and the evening and urine samples every morning for 10 days, using the Intercept device. Whole blood samples were collected if the patient accepted. The cutoff levels in oral fluid were 1.3 ng/mL for diazepam, N-desmethyldiazepam, and 7-aminoclonazepam and 1 ng/mL for clonazepam and alprazolam. In urine, the cutoff levels for quantifications were 30 ng/mL for alprazolam, alpha-OH-alprazolam, and 7-aminoclonazepam, 135 ng/mL for N-desmethyldizepam, and 150 ng/mL for 3-OH-diazepam and for all the compounds, the cutoff for the screening analyses were 200 ng/mL.
Results: The maximum detection times for diazepam and N-desmethyldiazepam in oral fluid were 7 and 9 days, respectively. For clonazepam and 7-aminoclonazepam, the maximum detection times in oral fluid were 5 and 6 days, respectively. The maximum detection time for alprazolam in oral fluid was 2.5 days. New ingestions were not suspected in any of the cases, because the corresponding concentrations in urine were decreasing. Results from blood samples revealed that high doses of benzodiazepines had been ingested before admission, and explains the longer detection times in oral fluids than reported previously after intake of therapeutic doses of these drugs.
Conclusions: This study has shown that oral fluid might be a viable alternative medium to urine when the abuse of benzodiazepines is suspected.