Hair test for cocaine

Has hair testing for cocaine always been accurate? Does this mean you may fail when in fact, you’re clean?

People often believe that the use of hair in order to conduct drugs tests regarding cocaine was a relatively new discovery. By presuming this, they are automatically deemed wrong, due to the concrete fact that the first known report of this method was back in 1981. Within the conduction of those studies, hair samples from said drug users were critically analysed by a technique called radioimmunoassay: directly searching for the cocaine factor named benzoylecgonine.

Further studies upon this notion deemed it to be a matter of utmost importance, being continued through into 1982. The first procedures which were put in place for cocaine detection within the hair follicles were not fully outlines until early 1987, where two analysts named Balabanova and Homoki revealed this. Throughout their search for a new, and more effective technique to detect cocaine in strands of hair, it was found that it was simply cocaine which was the primary analyte in the hair strands, contrary to popular belief that it was benzoylecgonine (commonly referred to as BZE). The metabolites and ecgonine methyl ester are carried by the hair follicles in such low quantities, that they possibly could be degraded by a plethora of factors including the environment, which may hold cocaine in its vicinity. There was a particular lack of specificity within early studies, therefore it could be deemed that the investigations carried out by the pioneers, of what now is seen to be fundamental, could be difficult to analyse within literature. There was a lack of fluency within the tests carried out: for example a few investigators quantitated cocaine in hair via the medium of antibodies of the RIA form which were actually highly specific for BZE. Others however, opted for RIAs which were more centred around cocaine. Adding to these factors, it is also known that a myriad of digestion of extraction procedures that were carried out, could have inured the direct degradation of cocaine within the human body.

There are a variety of methods which are commonly referred to in order to detect and possibly understand the quantitated amounts of cocaine within hair- although none, as of yet, have emerged with a reliable precision rating. Each procedure which has been carried out include specimen collection, sample washing, extraction and digestion from the hair sample.

Techniques for collecting hair specimens are highly important in regards to the integrity of the research, as considerable differences are seen in trace elements. Reports in recent research have deemed that the concentration of morphine have been found to be highest within pubic hair. This is then closely followed by axillary hair- followed by scalp hair.

As of yet, no truly reliable ways of conducting research regarding detecting cocaine in hair have prevailed. With research continuing, will we find a way to 100% understand how to collect these results with pinpoint precision.

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