The disposition of cocaine and opiate analytes in hair and fingernails of humans following cocaine and codeine administration

Jeri D. Ropero-Miller, Bruce A. Goldberger, Edward J. Cone, Robert E. Joseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


This study investigated the disposition patterns of cocaine and opiates into hair and fingernail specimens collected from 8 volunteers enrolled in a 10-week inpatient clinical study. All subjects were African-American males with a confirmed drug use history. Scalp hair and fingernail scrapings were collected weekly throughout the course of the study. Head hair was collected from the posterior vertex region, and fingernail scrapings were collected along the entire ventral surface of the nail plate. The specimens were introduced to successive decontamination washes including an isopropanol wash and three phosphate buffer washes. All decontamination washes were collected and analyzed. All specimens were enzymatically digested prior to being subjected to solid-phase extraction and derivatization. Analyses were performed using electron impact gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Analytes investigated included eight cocaine analytes and five codeine analytes. The limit of quantitation for all analytes ranged from 0.1 to 0.5 ng/mg for both matrices. Cocaine was present at the highest concentrations of any analyte in both hair and nail. Benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester were the primary metabolites in both matrices and were typically less than 15% of cocaine concentrations. Codeine was the only opiate analyte identified in either hair or nail. Observed drug disposition profiles were different for hair and nails. A significant doseresponse relationship was observed for hair specimens. The mean peak concentrations in hair after low dosing were half the concentration observed after high-dose administration. Generally, no clear relationship was evident between nail drug concentrations and dose. Decontamination washes removed less than 20% of the total drug present in hair, but removed most of the drug concentrations (60-100%) in nail. This investigation demonstrated that higher concentrations of drug were found in the subjects' hair than in their fingernails and that cocaine was found in both matrices at a greater concentration than codeine. Although both hair and nail have similar physical and chemical properties and may share common mechanisms of drug incorporation, this clinical study suggests that there are distinct differences in their disposition profiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-508
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of analytical toxicology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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