Medical Applications of Hair Analysis

A number of investigators have applied hair testing to detect prenatal drug exposure (61-70). The retrospective power of hair analysis allows, at the time of birth of an infant, an assessment of drug intake for as long a portion of the gestation period as the length of the mother's hair specimen permits. The first example of determining prenatal drug exposure by hair analysis, reported in 1987, was that of a mother who had ingested PCP during her pregnancy (61). This study and that of Grant et al. (66) demonstrated that determining the pattern of drug usage over the term of the pregnancy by segmental hair analysis may be especially useful in evaluating effects on neurodevelopmental outcomes of varying levels of drug use during specific trimesters. Callahan et al. (67), in comparing hair, meconium, and urine analyses for identifying cocaine use in mothers, found hair and meconium (when performed by GC-MS) to be about equivalent, whereas urine was about half as effective. The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto has presented studies on hair analysis to determine fetal exposure to drugs of abuse (69) as well as to nicotine (70). Sramek et al. reported on the use of hair testing to detect PCP use in newly admitted psychiatric patients (71). The differentiation between toxic and nontoxic psychosis was facilitated by the detection of PCP in hair in patients where urine failed to detect PCP even at the level of 1 ng/mL.

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