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The Detection of Hydromorphone in Urine Specimens with High Morphine Concentrations

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A previous study suggested that small amounts of morphine are metabolically converted to hydromorphone. In the present study, morphine positive urine specimens obtained from a postmortem laboratory and a random urinalysis program were tested for morphine, codeine, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone to assess the possibility that small amounts of hydromorphone are produced from the metabolism of morphine. The opioids were analyzed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry as their respective trimethylsilyl derivatives following solid phase extraction. The limit of detection for hydromorphone was 5 ng/mL. A total of 73 morphine positive urine specimens were analyzed, with morphine concentrations ranging from 131 to 297,000 ng/mL. Hydromorphone was present at a concentration ≥5 ng/mL in 36 of these specimens at concentrations ranging from 0.02% to 12% of the morphine concentration. Hydrocodone was not detected in these specimens at the assay detection limit of 25 ng/mL. These results support earlier work suggesting that the detection of hydromorphone in urine specimens does not necessarily mean that exogenous hydromorphone or hydrocodone was used.

Keywords: forensic science; hydromorphone; metabolism; morphine; opiates; toxicology; urine drug testing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Division of Forensic Toxicology, Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, 1413 Research Blvd, Bldg 102, Rockville, MD 20850. 2: Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 111 Penn Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.

Publication date: 2008-05-01

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