Prevalence and disposition of drugs of abuse and opioid treatment drugs in oral fluid

Edward J. Cone, Joe Clarke, Lolita Tsanaclis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Testing oral fluid for drugs of abuse has been studied under many conditions but rarely has been evaluated in large population databases. We evaluated oral fluid tests in a database from a commercial laboratory in the United Kingdom composed of 8679 confirmed positive results. The results originated from 635,000 specimens collected over the period of May 2004 through September 2006. Oral fluid specimens were collected with the Intercept® oral fluid collection device, screened by enzyme immunoassay, and confirmed by GC-MS or GC-MS-MS. The database was organized by collection settings (legal/treatment, N= 8198 specimens; and workplace, N = 481 specimens) and by drug groups (without consideration of collection setting). The drug groups were as follows (number of confirmed positives): amphetamines (468); benzodiazepines (892); buprenorphine (276); cannabinoids (725); cocaine (1443); methadone (998); and opiates (5739). The goal of the study was to provide drug/metabolite prevalence data, concentrations, and drugs/metabolite patterns encountered in oral fluid. Comparison of results by collection setting indicated differences in relative frequency, primarily for opiates and cannabinoids. Opiate positives were most frequently observed for specimens collected in legal/treatment settings, whereas cannabinoids were most frequently reported in the workplace. An array of information on drug and metabolite occurrences and concentration arose from evaluation of the data by drug groups. Amphetamine was the predominant drug reported for the Amphetamines Group; approximately 10% were also positive for MDA and/or MDMA; and methamphetamine was rarely reported. Multiple combinations of diazepam, nordiazepam, oxazepam, temazepam, chlordiazepoxide, and lorazepam were reported for the Benzodiazepine Group. Buprenorphine, an opioid treatment drug, was the predominant analyte reported, but low concentrations of norbuprenorphine were frequently reported. THC was the predominant analyte reported in the Cannabinoids Group and was frequently reported in combination with cannabidiol and cannabinol. THCCOOH was reported in only 10.8% of these specimens and was never reported in the absence of THC. HO-THC was reported in 5.7% of the specimens. In the Cocaine Group, cocaine was present, often in combination with BZE, but also as the sole analyte in 17.3% of the specimens. AEME and cocaethylene were reported in 10.4% and 5.5% of the specimens. Methadone, another opioid treatment drug, was reported in all specimens for the Methadone Group; EDDP was reported in 30.1% of the specimens. In the Opiates Group, morphine, codeine and 6-acetylmorhine were most frequently reported, often in combination. The frequency of detection of 6-acetylmorphine when morphine was present (N = 4575 specimens) was 77.5%. Surprisingly, heroin (19.0%; N = 1091 specimens) and 6-acetylcodeine (24.9%; N = 1431 specimens) were frequently reported. The results from analysis of this large oral fluid database offer a rich mixture of new information on detection frequency, drug and metabolite patterns, and concentration data on drugs of abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-433
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of analytical toxicology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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