Cannabinoid concentrations in hair from documented cannabis users

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Fifty-three head hair specimens were collected from 38 males with a history of cannabis use documented by questionnaire, urinalysis and controlled, double blind administration of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in an institutional review board approved protocol. The subjects completed a questionnaire indicating daily cannabis use (N = 18) or non-daily use, i.e. one to five cannabis cigarettes per week (N = 20). Drug use was also documented by a positive cannabinoid urinalysis, a hair specimen was collected from each subject and they were admitted to a closed research unit. Additional hair specimens were collected following smoking of two 2.7% THC cigarettes (N = 13) or multiple oral doses totaling 116 mg THC (N = 2). Cannabinoid concentrations in all hair specimens were determined by ELISA and GCMSMS. Pre- and post-dose detection rates did not differ statistically, therefore, all 53 specimens were considered as one group for further comparisons. Nineteen specimens (36%) had no detectable THC or 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THCCOOH) at the GCMSMS limits of quantification (LOQ) of 1.0 and 0.1 pg/mg hair, respectively. Two specimens (3.8%) had measurable THC only, 14 (26%) THCCOOH only, and 18 (34%) both cannabinoids. Detection rates were significantly different (p < 0.05, Fishers' exact test) between daily cannabis users (85%) and non-daily users (52%). There was no difference in detection rates between African-American and Caucasian subjects (p > 0.3, Fisher's exact test). For specimens with detectable cannabinoids, concentrations ranged from 3.4 to >100 pg THC/mg and 0.10 to 7.3 pg THCCOOH/mg hair. THC and THCCOOH concentrations were positively correlated (r = 0.38, p < 0.01, Pearson's product moment correlation). Using an immunoassay cutoff concentration of 5 pg THC equiv./mg hair, 83% of specimens that screened positive were confirmed by GCMSMS at a cutoff concentration of 0.1 pg THCCOOH/mg hair.




Huestis, M. A., Gustafson, R. A., Moolchan, E. T., Barnes, A., Bourland, J. A., Sweeney, S. A., … Smith, M. L. (2007). Cannabinoid concentrations in hair from documented cannabis users. Forensic Science International, 169(2–3), 129–136.

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