Deuterodiacetylmorphine as a marker for use of illicit heroin by addicts in a heroin-assisted treatment program

Marjolein G. Klous, Elisabeth J. Rook, Michel J. X. Hillebrand, Wim van den Brink, Jan M. van Ree, Jos H. Beijnen

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In preparation for a treatment program concerning the medical coprescription of heroin and methadone to treatment-resistant addicts in the Netherlands, we studied a novel strategy for monitoring co-use of illicit (nonprescribed) heroin. A deuterated analogue of heroin was added (1:20) to pharmaceutical, smokable heroin (a powder mixture of 75% w/w diacetylmorphine base and 25% w/w caffeine anhydrate), to be used by inhalation after volatilization ("chasing the dragon"). Plasma and urine samples were collected from nine male patients who had used pharmaceutical, smokable heroin during a four-day stay in a closed clinical research unit, and these samples were analyzed by liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry. Ratios of deuterated and undeuterated diacetylmorphine and 6-acetylmorphine (MAM/MAM-d3) in plasma and urine were calculated from peak areas of these substances in the respective chromatograms. The MAM/MAM-d3 ratios in plasma and urine were normally distributed (with small standard deviations) and independent from concentrations of 6-acetylmorphine and from time after use of pharmaceutical heroin. A MAM/MAM-d3 ratio in urine above 32.8 was considered indicative of co-use of illicit heroin, and this value was associated with a false-positive rate of only 1% (95% confidence interval: -1 to 3%). The MAM/MAM-d3 ratio was detectable in urine for 4-9.5 h after use of pharmaceutical, smokable heroin. Addition of stable, isotopically labelled heroin to pharmaceutical, smokable heroin is considered to be a feasible strategy for the detection of co-use of illicit heroin by patients in heroin-assisted treatment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-569
JournalJournal of analytical toxicology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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