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Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. Mar 2003; 88(2): F98–F100.
PMCID: PMC1721515

Comparison of meconium and neonatal hair analysis for detection of gestational exposure to drugs of abuse

Abstract

Background: Meconium and hair are two biological markers of in utero exposure to illicit drugs.

Objective: To compare the sensitivity of the two tests for different drugs.

Setting: Motherisk laboratory which tests in utero drug exposure in Toronto.

Methods: Cocaine, benzoylecgonine, opiates, cannabis, benzodiazepines, methadone, and barbiturates were measured in pairs of hair and meconium samples from the same neonates.

Results: Meconium was marginally more sensitive than neonatal hair for detection of cocaine and cannabis, possibly because it may detect second trimester exposure whereas hair grows only during the third trimester of pregnancy. There was a significant correlation between hair and meconium concentrations of cocaine, cannabis, and opiates.

Conclusion: In cases of clinical suspicion and a negative neonatal urine test, both meconium and hair are effective biological markers of in utero illicit drug exposure. Meconium may be more sensitive, but neonatal hair is available for three months whereas meconium is available for only one or two days. In contrast, the use of meconium, being a discarded material, is more acceptable to some parents than hair testing, which entails cutting scalp hair from the newborn.

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Selected References

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