BACKGROUND: Identification of external contamination is a challenge in hair analysis. This study investigates metabolite ratios of hydromorphone to morphine and hydrocodone to codeine as indicators to distinguish contamination from heroin use provided that hydromorphone/hydrocodone intake is excluded.
RESULTS: Hair samples after external contamination with street heroin proved to be negative for hydromorphone/hydrocodone. Hair samples from individuals with suspected street heroin use/contamination or opiate medication were analyzed for 6-monoacetylmorphine, morphine, acetylcodeine, codeine, hydromorphone and hydrocodone, and metabolite ratios of hydromorphone to morphine and hydrocodone to codeine were assessed. Hair samples from individuals with medicinal heroin/morphine/codeine use displayed significantly higher metabolite ratios than those with suspected street heroin use/contamination.
CONCLUSION: Hydromorphone/hydrocodone are solely formed during body passage. Thus, metabolite ratios can be used to distinguish morphine/heroin use from external contamination.