Clinical applications of hair testing for drugs of abuse - The Canadian experience

Julia Klein, Tatyana Karaskov, Gideon Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


During the last 2 decades there has been a substantial increase in illicit drug consumption in North America. It has been repeatedly shown that the personal history of drug use is far from being accurate. Fearing legal consequences and embarrassment of admitted illicit substance use, most users tend to deny or, to under-report illicit drug consumption. These facts have stressed an urgent need for a biological marker which does not lose its sensitivity within a few days after the end of exposure and which may yield a cumulative reflection of long term exposure to illicit drugs. Hair analysis has emerged as such a marker. A variety of illicit and medicinal compounds have been shown to be incorporated into hair including trace metals, barbiturates, amphetamines, opiates, phencyclidine, cocaine, nicotine and cannabis. Hair analysis for drugs of abuse provides long-term information on an individual's drug use; its window of detection is limited only by the length of the hair and typically, ranges from a week to several months. After establishing and validating several hair tests during the last decade, we have analyzed over 1000 hair samples for different drugs of abuse. We used RIA for screening and GC-MS for confirmation of positive results. The aim of this report is to illustrate the diagnostic usefulness of hair testing in different age groups (newborns, children, adults) and circumstances: (criminal cases, athletes, child custody cases, etc.). Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-288
Number of pages8
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 10 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Cannabis
  • Clinical applications
  • Cocaine
  • Drugs of abuse
  • Hair analysis


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