Aerospace Medicine Technical Reports

FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine
Civil Aerospace Medical Institute

Report No: DOT/FAA/AM-05/11

Title and Subtitle: Poppy Seed Consumption or Opiate Use: The Determination of Thebaine and Opiates of Abuse in Postmortem Fluids and Tissues

Report Date: June 2005

Authors: Johnson RD, Lewis RJ, Hattrup RA

Abstract: Opiates are some of the most widely prescribed drugs in America. Some opiate compounds are highly addictive and are often abused. Opiate abuse transcends all social, racial, and economic boundaries. Demonstrating the presence or absence of opiate compounds in postmortem fluids and/or tissues derived from fatal civil aviation accidents can have serious legal consequences and may help determine the cause of impairment and/or death. However, the consumption of poppy seed products can result in a positive opiate drug test. Therefore, the interpretation of positive opiate results must be viewed with caution.

We have developed a simple method for the simultaneous determination of 8 opiate compounds from one extraction. These compounds are hydrocodone, dihydrocodeine, codeine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, 6-monoacetylmorphine, morphine, and thebaine. The inclusion of thebaine is notable as it is an indicator of poppy seed consumption and may help explain morphine/codiene positives in cases where no opiate use was indicated. This method incorporates a Zymark RapidTrace� automated solid-phase extraction system, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, and trimethyl silane (TMS) and oxime-TMS derivitives. The limits of detection ranged from 0.78 � 12.5 ng/mL. The linear dynamic range for most analytes was 6.25 � 1600 ng/mL. The extraction efficiencies ranged from 70 � 103%.

We applied this method to 8 separate aviation fatalities where opiate compounds had previously been detected. The specimens analyzed for the determination of these 8 opiate compounds were blood, urine, liver, kidney, and skeletal muscle. This method has proven to be simple, robust, and accurate for the simultaneous determination of 8 opiate compounds in postmortem fluids and tissues.

Key Words: Forensic Toxicology, Opiates, Thebaine, GC/MS Aircraft Accident Investigation

No. of Pages: 14

Last updated: Friday, June 1, 2012