High prevalence of 6-acetylmorphine in morphine-positive oral fluid specimens

Lance Presley, Michael Lehrer, William Seiter, Dawn Hahn, Barbara Rowland, Melissa Smith, Keith W. Kardos, Dean Fritch, Sal Salamone, R. Sam Niedbala, Edward J. Cone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Identification of 6-acetylmorphine, a specific metabolite of heroin, is considered to be definitive evidence of heroin use. Although 6-acetylmorphine has been identified in oral fluid following controlled heroin administration, no prevalence data is available for oral fluid specimens collected in the workplace. We evaluated the prevalence of positive test results for 6-acetylmorphine in 77,218 oral fluid specimens collected over a 10-month period (January-October 2001) from private workplace testing programs. Specimens were analyzed by Intercept™ immunoassay (cutoff concentration=30ng/ml) and confirmed by GC-MS-MS (cutoff concentrations=30ng/ml for morphine and codeine, and 3ng/ml for 6-acetylmorphine). Only morphine-positive oral fluid specimens were tested by GC-MS-MS for 6-acetylmorphine. A total of 48 confirmed positive morphine results were identified. An additional 107 specimens were confirmed for codeine only. Of the 48 morphine-positive specimens, 32 (66.7%) specimens were positive for 6-acetylmorphine. Mean concentrations (±S.E.M.) of morphine, 6-acetylmorphine and codeine in the 32 specimens were 755±201, 416±168 and 196±36ng/ml, respectively. Concentrations of 6-acetylmorphine in oral fluid ranged from 3 to 4095ng/ml. The mean ratio (±S.E.M.) of 6-acetylmorphine/morphine was 0.33±0.06. It is suggested that, based on controlled dose studies of heroin administration, ratios >1 of 6-acetlymorphine/morphine in oral fluid are consistent with heroin use within the last hour before specimen collection. The confirmation of 6-acetylmorphine in 66.7% of morphine-positive oral fluid specimens indicates that oral fluid testing for opioids may offer advantages over urine in workplace drug testing programs and in testing drugged drivers for recent heroin use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-25
Number of pages4
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 23 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • 6-Acetylmorphine
  • Alternate matrices
  • Codeine
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Oral fluid
  • Prevalence
  • Workplace drug testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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