Journal of analytical toxicology

Analysis of Urinary Biomarkers for Smoking Crack Cocaine: Results of a Danish Laboratory Study.

PMID 25868555


Crack cocaine (free-base cocaine) smokers belong to a subgroup of marginalized drug users exposed to severe health risks and great social harm. Detection of the urinary, pyrolytic biomarker methylecgonidine (MED) and its metabolite ecgonidine (ED) secures an unambiguous confirmation of crack cocaine smoking. Although prevalence studies of cocaine based upon self-reporting may not be accurate, laboratory analysis is seldom used for neither diagnostic purpose nor early identification of crack cocaine smoking, which is far more severe than snorting cocaine. A new analytical method was validated for MED, ED and other relevant cocaine metabolites using automated liquid handling and column switching coupled to liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. Limit of quantification was 30 ng/mL for ED and MED. This method was applied in a laboratory study of urine samples (n = 110) from cocaine users in Denmark subjected to routine drugs-of-abuse testing. Crack cocaine smoking was confirmed by the presence of MED and/or ED. Eighty-four samples (76.4%) were found positive for crack cocaine smoking in this group of problematic cocaine users. MED was only detected in 5.9% of the positive samples. The study shows a prevalence 3-fold higher to that recently suggested by European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. We therefore advocate that the urinary biomarkers MED and ED are included in routine testing methods for clinical toxicology. This may lead to an earlier identification of crack cocaine smoking and possibly prevent a more severe drug use.

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