Forensic science international

Thebaine in hair as a marker for chronic use of illegal opium poppy substances.

PMID 20558018


Opium poppy products are often illegally used for both recreational and medicinal purposes. In order to demonstrate the ingestion of opium poppy substances, morphine, codeine and their metabolites have been identified. However, morphine and codeine also originate from the ingestion of therapeutic drugs. Therefore, thebaine, one of the main opium alkaloids, in hair was suggested as a marker for chronic use of illegal opium poppy substances in the present study. First, thebaine was included in the analyte list of our routine analytical method for the simultaneous quantification of codeine, morphine, norcodeine, normorphine and 6-acetylmorphine (6-AM) in hair, which was fully validated previously. Then, the incorporation of thebaine and other opiates into hair and the effect of hair pigmentation were examined using lean Zucker rats with both dark grey and white hair on the same body. Thebaine was also measured in hair samples from actual cases of opium poppy substance use. Consequently, thebaine in hair was demonstrated as a marker of chronic use of illegal opium poppy substances using an animal study and actual cases. Thebaine and other opiates were successfully measured in pigmented hair from rats that ingested raw opium suspension. Moreover, thebaine identified in hair excluded possibility of ingestion of pharmaceutical opiates in actual cases.

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Thebaine, powder