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J Anal Toxicol. 1995 Oct;19(6):359-74.

Comparison of heroin and cocaine concentrations in saliva with concentrations in blood and plasma.

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Addiction Research Center, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


Saliva is an alternate biological matrix for drug testing that has several advantages over more traditional fluids such as blood and urine. Collection is rapid, noninvasive, and relatively easy to obtain. Several reports have detailed the appearance of drugs of abuse in saliva, but few have compared the excretion profiles of drugs administered by different routes. In this study, subjects were administered three smoked and three intravenous doses of heroin in an ascending dose design. Blood and saliva were collected periodically after drug administration and analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) for heroin, 6-acetylmorphine, and morphine. In a second study, subjects were administered a single, smoked dose of 40 mg cocaine base and an intravenous dose of 44.8 mg cocaine HO on separate occasions. Plasma and saliva were collected and analyzed by CC-MS for cocaine, anhydroecgonine methyl ester (AEME), and seven additional metabolites. Heroin and 6-acetylmorphine were detected in the first saliva sample collected (2 min) following drug administration by both routes. Peak heroin concentrations were achieved quickly, between 2 and 5 min after intravenous administration and at 2 min after smoke heroin. Peak heroin concentrations in saliva after smoking heroin base ranged from 3534 (2.6 mg) to 20,580 ng/mL (5.2 mg), and after intravenous administration, concentrations ranged from 6 (10 mg heroin HCl to 30 ng/mL (12 mg heroin HCl. Saliva concentrations of heroin declined rapidly after intravenous administration, reaching the limit of sensitivity of the assay (1 ng/mL) by 60 min. Heroin concentrations in saliva after smoking declined slowly; detection times ranged from 4 to 24 h. Cocaine was the major analyte detected in saliva and plasma after smoked and intravenous administration. Peak saliva cocaine concentrations after intravenous administration ranged from 428 to 1927 ng/mL (N = 7); after smoking, they ranged from 15,852 to 504,880 ng/mL (N = 7). Peak plasma cocaine concentrations after intravenous administration ranged from 122 to 442 ng/mL A = 7), and after smoking, concentrations ranged from 46 to 291 ng/mL A = 7). The thermal degradation product of cocaine, AEME, was detected in saliva but not in plasma after smoking. Peak saliva AEME concentrations were achieved at 2 min and ranged from 558 to 4374 ng/mL (N = 7). These are the first reported observations of heroin and metabolites in saliva following heroin smoking and of AEME in saliva after smoking cocaine base. The presence of AEME in saliva may be useful as a marker of the smoked route following cocaine administration.

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