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Open AccessArticle

Assessment of Unsuspected Exposure to Drugs of Abuse in Children from a Mediterranean City by Hair Testing

Drug Abuse and Doping Unit, Department of Therapeutic Research and Medicines Evaluation National Institute of Health, Roma 00161, Italy
Unitat de Recerca Infància i Entorn (URIE), Paediatric Service, Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques (IMIM), Barcelona 08003, Spain
Laboratorio di Sanità Pubblica (LSP), Azienda Provinciale Servizi Sanitari, Trento 38010, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(2), 2288-2298;
Received: 9 January 2014 / Revised: 12 February 2014 / Accepted: 13 February 2014 / Published: 21 February 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue IJERPH: 10th Anniversary)
Hair testing was used to investigate the prevalence of unsuspected exposure to drugs of abuse in a group of children presenting to an urban paediatric emergency department without suggestive signs or symptoms. Hair samples were obtained from 114 children between 24 months and 10 years of age attending the emergency room of Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, Spain. Hair samples from the accompanying parent were also collected. The samples were analyzed for the presence of opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, and cannabinoids by ultra-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Parental sociodemographics and possible drug of abuse history were recorded. Hair samples from twenty-three children (20.1%) were positive for cocaine (concentration range 0.15–3.81 ng/mg hair), those of thirteen children (11.4%) to cannabinoids (D9-THC concentration range 0.05–0.54 ng/mg hair), with four samples positive to codeine (0.1–0.25 ng/mg hair), one positive for 2.09 ng methadone per mg hair and one to 6-MAM (0.42 ng/mg hair) and morphine (0. 15 ng/mg hair) . In 69.5 and 69.2% of the positive cocaine and cannabinoids cases respectively, drugs was also found in the hair of accompanying parent. Parental sociodemographics were not associated with children exposure to drugs of abuse. However, the behavioural patterns with potential harmful effects for the child’s health (e.g., tobacco smoking, cannabis, benzodiazepines and/or antidepressants use) were significantly higher in the parents of exposed children. In the light of the obtained results (28% overall children exposure to drugs of abuse) and in agreement with 2009 unsuspected 23% cocaine exposure in pre-school children from the same hospital, we support general hair screening to disclose exposure to drugs of abuse in children from risky environments to provide the basis for specific social and health interventions. View Full-Text
Keywords: hair testing; drugs of abuse; children; unsuspected exposure hair testing; drugs of abuse; children; unsuspected exposure
MDPI and ACS Style

Pichini, S.; Garcia-Algar, O.; Alvarez, A.; Gottardi, M.; Marchei, E.; Svaizer, F.; Pellegrini, M.; Rotolo, M.C.; Pacifici, R. Assessment of Unsuspected Exposure to Drugs of Abuse in Children from a Mediterranean City by Hair Testing. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11, 2288-2298.

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