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Evaluation of Analytical Methodologies for Non-Intrusive Drug Testing--Supercritical Fluid Extraction of Cocaine from Hair



J F. Morrison, L T. Sniegoski, W J. Yoo, Alim A. Fatah


Supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) was investigated as an environmentally friendly alternative to currently used wet chemical procedures in hair drug testing protocols. The SFE behavior of cocaine and its primary metabolite benzoylecgonine was studied and found to be highly dependent upon the nature of the matrix and the manner in which the target drug analytes are incorporated into or on the matrix. The dependence of extractability on hair/drug binding interactions allows the differentiation of cocaine present at different discrete sites in hair based on differences in SFE behavior, suggesting the potential for distinguishing exogenous (i.e., environmental) from endogenous (i.e., physiological) sources of drugs in hair by employing different SFE conditions. SFE using pure carbon dioxide was found to be superior to existing liquid decontamination methods for the removal of vapor-deposited cocaine from the surface of hair. Addition of an SFE modifier mixture containing triethylamine and water allowed the recovery of matrix-bound cocaine from hair binding sites, and extraction efficiencies compared favorably with existing liquid-based extraction procedures. Extraction times in SFE were approximately 30 min to 50 min, compared with several hours to one day for currently used liquid methods. Based on the extraction results observed on drug-fortified and drug user hair a displacement SFE mechanism is proposed in which triethylamine competes with cocaine for negatively-charged hair binding sites. The SFE results additionally provide insight into the nature of hair-drug binding interactions and lend support to a current model for drug incorporation in hair.
NIJ Report 601-98


benzoylecgonine, cocaine, drugs, hair, supercritical fluid extraction


Morrison, J. , Sniegoski, L. , Yoo, W. and Fatah, A. (1999), Evaluation of Analytical Methodologies for Non-Intrusive Drug Testing--Supercritical Fluid Extraction of Cocaine from Hair, NIJ Report 601-98 (Accessed March 3, 2024)
Created February 28, 1999, Updated October 12, 2021