Opioid disposition in human sweat after controlled oral codeine administration

Eugene W. Schwilke, Allan J. Barnes, Sherri L. Kacinko, Edward J. Cone, Eric T. Moolchan, Marilyn A. Huestis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: Characterization of opioid excretion in sweat is important for accurate interpretation of sweat tests in drug treatment, criminal justice, and workplace drug testing programs. Methods: Participants (n = 20) received placebo, 3 low (60 mg/70 kg) or 3 high (120 mg/70 kg) codeine sulfate doses (used as a model for opioid excretion) within 1 week. Codeine and metabolites in sweat were collected with PharmChek® Sweat Patches; hourly patches were applied for 1 to 15 h (n = 775) and weekly patches for 7 days (n = 118). Patches were analyzed by solid-phase extraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry for codeine, norcodeine, morphine, normorphine, and 6-acetylmorphine. Limits of quantification were 2.5 ng/patch (codeine and morphine) and 5 ng/patch (other analytes). Results: Codeine was the only analyte identified in 12.6% of hourly patches and 83.3% of weekly sweat patches worn during dosing. Weekly patch concentrations (SD) were 38.6 (59.9) ng/patch [median (range), 15.9 (0-225.1) ng/patch] for low and 34.1 (32.7) ng/patch [24.0 (0-96.2) ng/patch] for high codeine doses. Codeine detected 1 week after dosing was 4.6 (5.3) ng/patch [median (range), 4.0 (0-17.1) ng/patch; n = 11] after low and 7.7 (7.1) ng/patch [6.9 (0-20.5) ng/patch; n = 10] after high doses. In total, 2.6% of hourly, 38.5% of low-dose, and 45.5% of high-dose weekly patches contained codeine at the proposed Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration cutoff. Conclusions: Codeine was the only analyte detected, at highly variable concentrations, up to 2 weeks after dosing. These results are consistent, considering the complex processes of codeine deposition in sweat. Sweat testing is a useful alternative technique for qualitative monitoring of opioid use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1539-1545
Number of pages7
JournalClinical chemistry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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