Drug Testing and Analysis

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Vol 9 (12 Issues in 2017)
Editor-in-Chief: Prof. Mario Thevis
Print ISSN: 1942-7603 Online ISSN: 1942-7611
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12:00 AM EST December 12, 2013

Beating the Poppy Seed Defense: New Test Can Distinguish Heroin Use from Seed Ingestion

Heroin is one of the most widely used illegal drugs in the world, but drug testing has long been challenged by the difficulty in separating results of illicit heroin users from those who have innocently eaten poppy seeds containing natural opiates. Research in Drug Testing and Analysis explores a new test which may present a solution to the so-called ‘poppy seed defense’.

The team sought to identify an acetylated derivative which is known to be present in street heroin, but would not be found in either poppy seeds or medicines containing opiates. The authors identified a unique glucuronide metabolite (designated ‘ATM4G’) that can be used as a marker of street heroin use.

“A high frequency for the presence of ATM4G in urine is highly noteworthy and strongly suggests that detection of this metabolite may offer an important advance in workplace drug testing and forensic toxicology, providing a potential solution to the so-called poppy seed defense,” said Dr. Andrew Kicman, from the Department of Forensic and Analytical Science at King’s College, London.