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The Detection of THCA Using 2-Dimensional Gas Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry in Human Fingernail Clippings: Method Validation and Comparison with Head Hair

Joseph Jones, Mary Jones, Charles Plate, Douglas Lewis | United States Drug Testing Laboratories, Inc. , Des Plaines, USA | DOI: 10.4236/ajac.2013.410A2001

Cut fingernails by hand

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Marijuana use, as well as abuse, is a significant public health and public safety concern in the United States, and using hair to identify marijuana users and abusers has been gaining acceptance in a number of venues including workplace, court ordered, and substance abuse treatment monitoring. After the presentation of a fully validated 2-dimensional gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry method for the detection of 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THCA), the chief metabolite of the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), we evaluated the usefulness of fingernail clippings as an alternative specimen type to hair by the analysis of a set of 60 matched pairs of head hair and fingernail clippings. The limit of detection was 10 fg/mg, the limit of quantitation was 20 fg/mg, and the assay was linear from 20 fg/mg to 500 fg/mg. The intra- and inter-assay imprecision and bias studies at 4 different concentrations (50, 100, 500, and 1000 fg/mg) were acceptable where all % Target observations were within 16% of their expected concentrations and all %CV calculations were less than 13.5%. THCA was detectable in more fingernail specimens (53.3%) than hair specimens (46.7%) and the mean concentrations in nails were on average 4.9 times higher than in hair (1813 fg/mg and 364 fg/mg, respectively). The THCA concentrations in hair and nail were strongly associated (r = 0.974, P < 0.01, n = 60) and the association was significant. The study demonstrated that fin-gernail clippings are a suitable alternative specimen type to hair to monitor for marijuana use and abuse.


11-Nor-9-Carboxy-Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol; THCA; Carboxy-THC; Hair; Fingernail; 2D-GC-MS/MS; 2-Dimensional Gas Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry

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