Journal of analytical toxicology

Distinguishing heroin abuse from codeine administration in the urine of Chinese people by UPLC-MS-MS.

PMID 23316032


Heroin is a highly addictive drug, and heroin abuse is considered to be a serious criminal act. The major metabolite of heroin, morphine, can usually be detected as evidence of heroin abuse. However, it is difficult to determine heroin use when morphine and codeine are both detected, because codeine use will also result in the presence of morphine in urine. Therefore, it is important to distinguish heroin abuse from codeine administration. In this study, urine samples from 21 volunteers with various ingestion patterns of a compound codeine phosphate oral solution were used as negative controls, and urine samples from 89 alleged heroin users were used as positive controls. Urine from single and multiple doses of codeine administration were collected at different time points for a systematic comparison. After protein precipitation, the urine samples were analyzed for the presence of free morphine, free codeine and their metabolites by ultra-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. The method of percentiles, with median and standard interquartile ranges, was used to describe and analyze the data based on the normality of the distribution. The ratios of concentration of morphine and morphine to codeine were found to be the possible criteria to distinguish heroin users from codeine users in Chinese people.