Monitoring pregnant women's illicit opiate and cocaine use with sweat testing

Bertrand R. Brunet, Allan J. Barnes, Robin E. Choo, Patrick Mura, Hendrée E. Jones, Marilyn A. Huestis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dependence on illicit drugs during pregnancy is a major public health concern as there may be associated adverse maternal, fetal, and neonatal consequences. Sweat patches (n = 389) were collected from 39 pregnant volunteers who provided written informed consent for this Institutional Review Board-approved protocol and wore patches, replaced approximately weekly, from study entry until delivery. Patches were analyzed for opiates (heroin, 6-acetylmorphine, 6-acetylcodeine, morphine and codeine) and cocaine (cocaine, benzoylecgonine, ecgonine methyl ester, anhydroecgonine methyl ester) by solid phase extraction and gas chromatography mass spectrometry. Seventy-one percent (276) of collected sweat patches were ≥5 ng per patch (limit of quantification) for one or more analytes. Cocaine was present in 254 (65.3%) patches in concentrations ranging from 5.2 to 11,835 ng per patch with 154 of these high enough to satisfy the proposed Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration guidelines for a confirmatory drug test (25 ng per patch). Interestingly, 6-acetylmorphine was the most prominent opiate analyte documented in 134 patches (34.4%) with 11.3% exceeding the proposed opiate Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration cut-off (25 ng per patch). Heroin was identified in fewer patches (77), but in a similar concentration range (5.3-345.4 ng per patch). Polydrug use was evident by the presence of both cocaine and opiate metabolites in 136 (35.0%) patches. Sweat testing is an effective method for monitoring abstinence or illicit drug use relapse in this high-risk population of pregnant opiate-and/or cocaine-dependent women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-49
Number of pages10
JournalTherapeutic drug monitoring
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Opiates
  • Sweat
  • Sweat patch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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