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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(8), 8267-8275;

Pediatric Exposure to Drugs of Abuse by Hair Testing: Monitoring 15 Years of Evolution in Spain

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 de Recerca Hospital del Mar—IMIM, Barcelona 80003, Spain
Red SAMID, RETICs, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid 28002, Spain
Laboratorio di Sanità Pubblica (LSP), Azienda Provinciale Servizi Sanitari, Trento 38121, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 July 2014 / Revised: 6 August 2014 / Accepted: 11 August 2014 / Published: 14 August 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Substance and Drug Abuse Prevention)
Full-Text   |   PDF [185 KB, uploaded 14 August 2014]


Hair testing is a useful tool to investigate the prevalence of unsuspected chronic exposure to drugs of abuse in pediatric populations and it has been applied to three different cohorts of children from Barcelona, Spain along fifteen years to evaluate eventual changes in this exposure. Children were recruited from three independent studies performed at Hospital del Mar (Barcelona, Spain) and approved by the local Ethics Committee. Hair samples were collected from the first 187 children cohort (around 4 years of age) in 1998, from the second 90 children cohort (1.5–5 years of age) in 2008 and from the third 114 children cohort (5–14 years of age) in 2013. Hair samples were analysed for the presence of opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, and cannabis by validated methodologies using gas or liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Familiar sociodemographics and eventual consumption of drugs of abuse by parents, and caregivers were recorded. Hair samples from 24.6% children in 1998 were positive for any drug of abuse (23.0% cocaine), 25.5% in 2008 (23.3% cocaine), and 28.1% in 2013 (20.1% cocaine and 11.4% cannabis). In none of the cohorts, parental sociodemographics were associated with children exposure to drugs of abuse. The results of the three study cohorts demonstrated a significant prevalence of unsuspected pediatric exposure to drugs of abuse which mainly involved cocaine maintained along fifteen years in Barcelona, Spain. We recommend to be aware about unsuspected passive exposure to drugs of abuse in general population and to use general or selected 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 exposure; children; Spain hair testing; drugs of abuse exposure; children; Spain
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Pichini, S.; García-Algar, O.; Alvarez, A.-T.; Mercadal, M.; Mortali, C.; Gottardi, M.; Svaizer, F.; Pacifici, R. Pediatric Exposure to Drugs of Abuse by Hair Testing: Monitoring 15 Years of Evolution in Spain. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11, 8267-8275.

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