Friday, March 04, 2005

Drug Testing Hair for MDMA (Ecstasy)

Dear Dr. Shulgin:

Does Ecstasy stay in your hair and, if so, for how long?

- Anon.

Dear Anon -

The answer to your questions are simple and straight forward:

Yes it does stay in your hair until you shave your head.

With the extraordinary sensitivity of present day analytical instruments one can detect MDMA in human hair at the picogram level per milligram of hair. A picogram is a millionth of a millionth of a gram. The procedure involves washing the small hair sample with water, followed by acetone to remove any surface contamination. The hair sample is then heated for a period of time, often in dilute hydrochloric acid. This breaks down the hair and releases the drugs that have been put in it by the body. And, according to chromatographic instrumentation techniques that have been worked out and published, an analysis of a hair extract will show not only MDMA but its primary metabolite MDA. A paper appeared by some Italian researchers in a recent issue of Journal of Chromatography that showed a single analysis not only revealed MDMA and MDA but also the presence or absence of amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDE, MDBD, Ketamine, Methadone and Cocaine. By the way, if Heroin had been used in the recent past, the metabolite 6-acetylmorphine would be readily detected.

Some states have recently passed laws making it illegal to drive under the influence of Marijuana. As a rule, “being under the influence” is being defined as finding the presence of any detectable THC on the driver. It is well known that the half-life of THC is so long that if a user stops using any amount at all, a chromatographic analysis can still pick it up weeks later. The way things are going in our anti-drug crusade, I wouldn't be surprised if in the near future a law might appear making it illegal to drive under the influence of, say, MDMA. If such a law used the same definition of "under the influence" as used in the THC example above, then the presence of any detectable MDMA would make driving a car illegal. This means if you had recently used MDMA and you have hair, you would be breaking the law. It would be interesting to see the rave crowd with shaved heads, armpits and pubes. Then again, it might not be that obvious, as I am sure there would be a monster run on wigs and merkins.

-Dr. Shulgin