Monitoring the Crack Epidemic Through Urine Testing: Establishment of Routine Detection Methods

by K. Jack Riley, Natalie T. Lu, James E. Meeker, Peter Lo, Neil Fortner, Bruce G. Taylor

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Abuse of crack cocaine continues to be a major concern. Because of limits to biological testing, self-report has been the only mechanism for distinguishing crack use from powder use. Researchers have reported that smoking crack generates unique pyrolysis products that are detectable in urine, but no study has addressed how these products could be used as a marker for crack use or how reliable the technology is. This paper reports on a project sponsored by the National Institute of Justice that consisted of (1) interviews conducted with and urine specimens collected from 2327 adult arrestees; (2) development and validation of procedures for routine confirmation of crack use; and (3) establishment of standard profiles for two crack pyrolysis products, anhydroecgonine methylester and ecgonidine. The authors found that both products could be detected in urine specimens for periods of up to 40 hours. Most important, they demonstrated that both are necessary to accurately measure crack use. Their results indicated that nearly 31% of the specimens were positive for undifferentiated cocaine, of which more than 88% were positive for crack. This resulted in crack prevalence rates of nearly 31% for females and 27% for males. The results will be used to further monitor the crack epidemic and to provide information to inform public policy

Originally published in: Addiction Biology, v. 6, 2001, pp. 83-95.

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