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Med Sci Law. 2018 Jul;58(3):137-146. doi: 10.1177/0025802418768305. Epub 2018 Apr 22.

Toxicological hair analysis: Pre-analytical, analytical and interpretive aspects.

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1 Amity Institute of Forensic Sciences, Amity University, India.
2 Department of Forensic Science, Government Institute of Forensic Science, India.


Background and aims Hair analysis for drug detection is one of the widely accepted imperative techniques in the field of forensic toxicology. The current study was designed to investigate the efficacy of chromatography for detection of drugs of abuse in hair. Method A comprehensive review of articles from last two decades on hair analyses via PubMed and similar resources was performed. Issues concerning collection, decontamination and analytical techniques are summarised. Physiochemical nature of hair, mechanism of drug incorporation and its stability in hair are briefly discussed. Furthermore, various factors affecting results and interpretation are elucidated. Result A hair sample is chosen over traditional biological samples such blood, urine, saliva or tissues due to its inimitable ability to provide a longer time frame for drug detection. Its collection is almost non-invasive, less cumbersome and does not involve any specialised training/expertise. Recent advances in analytical technology have resulted in better sensitivity, reproducibility and accuracy, thus providing a new arena of scientific understanding and test interpretation. Conclusion Though recent studies have yielded many insights into drug binding and drug incorporation in hair, the major challenge in hair analysis lies in the interpretation of results, which may be affected by external contamination and thus lead to false-positives. Therefore, there is a need for more sensitive and selective analysis methods to be developed in order to minimise factors that induce the effect of melanin, age and so on, and this would certainly provide a new dimension to hair analysis and its applications.


Hair analysis; dose–concentration relationship; drug detection

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