Drug Guide for Parents: Learn the Facts to Keep Your Teen Safe
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What you need to know about meconium collection.
by Michelle Lach, MSIMC
Meconium is the first stool of a newborn infant. It is produced in utero and consists of materials such as epithelial cells, bile, mucous, and more. In most newborns, meconium is generally passed in the first day or so of life, has no odor, and appears as a very dark, tar-like substance. This helps distinguish meconium from the next phase of passage called transitional stool.
Transitional stool will start to have an odor and present with a more brown, green, or yellow color as the newborn starts digesting milk. When drug testing the meconium of a newborn, it is important to note this difference since only meconium is created during gestation and transitional stool is created after birth. Collection of any stool other than meconium for drug testing purposes may result in a rejected specimen.
Unlike umbilical cord tissue, drugs are not distributed uniformly throughout the meconium specimen (see Figure 1). Because of this, the collection of the entire mass of meconium is highly encouraged to assure that there will be enough specimen to test, and that the maximum window of drug detection is achieved. It can take multiple passages of meconium before the newborn begins the transitional stool phase.
We require a minimum of 3 grams of meconium to be able to properly run our tests, so collecting the entire passage of meconium from newborns that have been exposed to substances of abuse is highly critical since they tend to have lower birth weights and create less specimen in the first place. If there is not enough specimen to run the test, the results are reported out as QNS. Quantity Not Sufficient (QNS) is a result of not having a sufficient quantity (volume) of specimen to test for the panels ordered.
What You Need To Know: Testing for Drug Exposure vs. Ingestion
Testing for environmental exposure to illicit drugs is a powerful tool for protecting the welfare of children. Exposure testing is different from typical drug testing, and when properly done, has the potential to reduce the risk of harm to children.
No Metabolite Does NOT Mean No Exposure
Testing labs often apply government workplace testing guidelines to child exposure testing samples. Under workplace guidelines, negative results are reported when drug metabolites are absent in the testing sample, even if the native drug is present.
Child hair and nail samples for exposure testing often do not contain drug metabolites because the child has not ingested illicit substances. Adhering to workplace guidelines can result in false negative reporting for drug exposure, especially when children are involved.
Environmental Exposure testing is most effective in alternative sample types, such as hair and fingernails. For example, hair testing is 3.5x more likely to detect methamphetamine exposure than urine testing. Typical drug testing samples are washed to remove drug biomarkers resulting from exposure. Environmental exposure testing eliminates this step.
– Click here to download the pdf.https://www.usdtl.com/blog/drug-exposure-vs-ingestion-what-you-need-to-know
Numerous studies have shown that meconium specimens are too often unavailable for substance exposure testing. Universal collection of umbilical cord specimens offers a solution.
By Joseph Salerno
Unable, despite her best efforts to shake her addiction, a woman exposes her unborn child to drugs in the womb. The baby is born, healthy and beautiful with all the promise the future holds. Three days later, the withdrawal symptoms kick in. The baby wails, flush with the pains of withdrawal and inconsolable, unable to sleep, experiencing seizures. The NICU physician wants to know what the baby has been exposed to, but now it’s too late. The meconium has already been passed and discarded, and the umbilical cord is gone, lost opportunities for concrete answers. Now it’s a guessing game.
This isn’t just a “what-if” scenario, unfortunately, but a potential reality in a surprisingly large number of newborn substance exposure cases. Withdrawal symptoms in substance exposed newborns can be delayed up to three, five, even seven days after the baby is born. Cases of in utero barbiturate exposure may not manifest withdrawal signs until 14 days post-delivery. By that time it’s too late to test any of the baby’s specimens for biomarkers of substance exposure, because the specimens are gone.
Universal collection of umbilical cord specimens offers a solution to avoid this dilemma. Umbilical cord is the only universally available specimen for substance exposure testing. Numerous studies have shown meconium is not available for testing in up to 27% of births. Meconium may be passed in utero. In some cases, there is not enough meconium volume to test even when it is able to be collected.
And again, meconium may have been passed by the newborn and discarded well before they begin to exhibit withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, this can also be a problem when the signs of in utero substance exposure emerge after the umbilical cord has been discarded. Newborn urine testing is not a viable option in these cases, because urine provides only a 1-3 day window of detection for substance exposure biomarkers, compared to the 20 week look-back of umbilical cord.
Universal collection of umbilical cord specimens for every birth ensures there are no lost opportunities should the need for substance exposure testing arise. Umbilical cord collection is extremely easy, requiring very little additional effort during post delivery procedures. Only six inches of the cord is required for substance testing, taking up very little storage space.
Umbilical cord tissue is a very stable and reliable specimen. Cord tissue is stable up to 1 week at room temperature, and up to 3 weeks when refrigerated, without jeopardizing the testing results. This is ample time for the emergence of newborn withdrawal symptoms, even in the most extreme cases. Enough time to avoid a missed opportunity for real answers. Only one donor and one collector are present during the umbilical cord collection – in contrast to the multiple collections and multiple collectors involved with meconium – greatly improving chain-of-custody integrity. Umbilical cord specimens are ready for transport just minutes after the birth, greatly improving turnaround time for results reporting. Meconium passages can be delayed for days before being sent to the lab.
1. Arendt, R., Singer, L., Minnes, S. and Salvator, A. (1999). Accuracy in detecting prenatal drug exposure. Journal of Drug Issues. 29(2), 203-214.
2. Ostrea, E., Knapp, D., Tannenbaum, L., Ostrea, A., Romero, A., Salari, V. and Ager, J. (2001). Estimates of illicit drug use during pregnancy by maternal interview, hair analysis, and meconium analysis. Pediatrics. 138, 344-348.
3. Lester, B., ElSohly, M., Wright, L., Smeriglio, V., Verter, J., Bauer, C., Shankaran, S., Bada, H., Walls, C., Huestis, M., Finnegan, L. and Maza, P. (2001). The maternal lifestyle study: Drug use by meconium toxicology and maternal self-report. Pediatrics. 107(2), 309-317.
4. Derauf, C., Katz, A. and Easa, D.. (2003). Agreement between Maternal Self-reported Ethanol Intake and Tobacco Use During Pregnancy and Meconium Assays for Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters and Cotinine. American Journal of Epidemiology. 158, 705–709.
5. Eylera, F., Behnkea, M., Wobiea, K., Garvanb, C. and Tebb, I. (2005). Relative ability of biologic specimens and interviews to detect prenatal cocaine use. Neurotoxicology and Teratology. 27, 677 – 687.https://www.usdtl.com/blog/lost-opportunities
When a child is exposed to illegal substance abuse they often also face other coexisting obstacles to a normal life – neglect, abuse, violence, and other vulnerabilities. Substance abuse is a disease, one that often prevents adults from doing what is in a child’s best interests. Our environmental exposure test for children can help.
Our hair environmental exposure test is the only drug test designed to detect passive exposure to drugs and detect both native drugs and drug metabolites in the hair specimen. Drug metabolites are produced in the body only if drugs have been ingested. Children in drug exposed environments are most often not drug users themselves, so drug metabolites are typically absent in child specimens. However, the hair, like a sponge, can absorb non-metabolized drug (native drug) if it is exposed through things such as touching or being in contact with drugs or drug users.
Standard hair tests with other labs will only report a positive exposure result if drug metabolites are detected, even when the native drug is in the child’s hair specimen. Our hair environmental exposure test reports a positive result if either native drugs or drug metabolites are detected.
A hair exposure test can provide evidence of drugs in a child’s environment for the past 3 months. A positive test result suggests that the child has experienced one or more of the following: passive inhalation of drug smoke, contact with drug smoke, contact with sweat or sebum (skin oil) of a drug user, contact with the actual drug, or accidental or intentional ingestion of illegal drugs.
ChildGuard®is the only child hair test designed to detect exposure to native drugs and drug metabolites.https://www.usdtl.com/blog/we-can-help-you-help-them-with-childguard
Please click here to read the full article by Eric Frazer, Ph. D., and Linda Smith, Ph. D., in our Fall issue of Substance.
One of the most common issues that arises in Juvenile and Family Court is parental substance abuse. Once this allegation has been raised, there is immediate concern about the child’s safety and well-being. In particular, there is often concern about neglect and abuse. For example, will the parent prioritize drug seeking over caring for the child? Will the parent drive under the influence, with the child in the vehicle? Less commonly mentioned in the courtroom, especially in the family courtroom, is potential child exposure to drugs. Unfortunately, this is a significant risk to children, and should be considered and discussed in every case.
One of the challenges family lawyers and courts face is how to properly investigate the substance abuse allegation and determine if it is a valid concern. Gathering and organizing the most relevant information has historically been difficult to do because of a lack of awareness regarding what is most relevant and important. Fortunately, the drug testing lab can bridge that gap of uncertainty, especially when there is an allegation about child exposure.
The objective for any lawyer and the court is to have sufficient information available to rule in, or out, the substance abuse allegations. This information may be presented via admissible evidence, witness testimony, and/or expert testimony. The following pointers may be helpful to legal professionals so that they are able to most effectively present a case on this matter.
Step 1 – Inquiry & Investigation
One of the first steps in evaluating a substance abuse allegation is to ask research informed questions so that the most relevant data can be gathered. Questions should be focused on potential exposure of the children to parental drug possession or use. For example, relevant questions may include:
- Where does the defendant allegedly store the drugs?
- Does the child have easy access to these storage containers and locations?
- Is the child typically present when the drugs are used?
- In what ways may the child have been exposed?
- What steps, if any, did the parent take to protect the child from accidental exposure?
Step 2 – Drug & Alcohol Monitoring
If a parent tests positive on an alcohol or drug test, this may result in a motion, agreement, or court order for ongoing monitoring. However, many questions then arise. For example, how long should the monitoring extend? Should it
include both alcohol and drugs? What type of drug monitoring method should be used (urine/hair/SCRAM/Soberlink, etc.)?
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