Archive for June, 2010

What is Meconium Drug Testing?

We have an acquaintance that is a foster parent to a child whose mother used drugs during her pregnancy.  He has multiple siblings, all in foster care.  The child is now nearly two and under continual medical and therapeutic care for learning disabilities, slow speech development, and gastrointestinal problems, among many others.  These long-term side effects were the consequences of his mother’s drug use during fetal development.

 According to the March of Dimes, nearly 4% of pregnant women use drugs.  Mothers between the ages of 15 – 17 have the highest incidence of drug use during pregnancy (National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA).

 So, how does a health professional know if a newborn has been exposed to drugs in utero?  They will test the first, possibly second, stool of the newborn, called meconium.  Fetuses begin forming waste material in their digestive system between 12 to 16 weeks’ gestation.  They pass the in utero waste either during the delivery process or soon after.  Doctors use meconium as an excellent specimen for drug testing if they suspect the mother may have used illicit substances.  Signs of use that physicians look for include:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Mother’s past history of use or abuse
  • Small head circumference
  • Newborn signs of withdrawal
  • Stillbirth

 Meconium is an excellent specimen because it retains drug metabolites for up to 5 months, whereas newborn urine drug testing reflects only the last few days prior to excretion.  Unfortunately, drug use during pregnancy can affect the newborn child both short-term and long-term.  The child may exhibit signs of:

  • Drug withdrawal symptoms
  • Behavioral, development and learning disorders
  • Seizures
  • Hyperactivity
  • Birth defects

 What is most critical to caring physicians is getting the test results before the mother leaves the hospital.  Based on the test results, social services intervention may be necessary, and the child may be immediately placed in foster care.  Today, hospitals are releasing new mothers within 24 to 48 hours of delivery.  If test results are not received within this period of time, there is a high likelihood mom and baby will “disappear”, making intervention much more difficult.

How To Perform Nail Specimen Collections for Drug Testing

Did you know that fingernails and toenails make excellent specimens for drug testing?  The same drugs that can be detected in samples like urine, oral fluid and hair can also be detected in nails.  This means when that employee or candidate shows up for their drug test bald with their body completely shaved, we’ve got another surprise for them!

As you will see in this video, all ten fingernail or toenail tips are clipped first.  The detection period from clippings only is for 30 days, 6 months ago.  Do you want to know if someone was using drugs during the entire six month period?  If so, the collector will then lightly shave the surface of all ten nails.  The detection period between the lunula (the “white moon” of the nail) and where the clippings ended is about 5 months. 

Both the clippings and shavings are then submitted to ExperTox for testing.  Here is how the collection is performed:

Waiter, One Bottle of Hand Sanitizer, Please

Unless you are a seasoned connoisseur of fine Scotch or whisky, drinking a proper alcoholic beverage may be a scorching experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  Now, can you just imagine drinking a few pumps of hand sanitizer?

It appears to be one of the drinks of choice for young people in middle school through college.  When the H1N1 “pandemic” erupted last year, many public facilities were placing hand sanitizer dispensers within their facilities to reduce the chances of spreading germs.  However, many had to take them out as quickly as they put them in.  Why?  Because people were stealing the hand sanitizer bottles and bags for consumption.

There is a word of warning on every bottle of hand sanitizer, “for external use only”.  This has yet to stop someone looking for a quick feeling of intoxication.  Hand sanitizer contains may contain ethyl alcohol and/or isopropyl alcohol, ranging from 60% to 95% alcohol content.  Purell’s website reflects a 65% alcohol content in its hand sanitizer, and GermX shows 62%.  Ethyl alcohol is the same alcohol found in drinking alcohol; however, it is also found in perfumes, shaving lotions and mouthwash.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, including our friend, the Southeast Texas Poison Control Center, there were nearly 12,000 cases of hand sanitizer ingestion poisonings in 2006.

Besides ingesting in a liquid form, hand sanitizer is also abused as an inhalant.  Young people are coating their hands with the hand sanitizer, covering their nose and mouth, then “huffing” deeply.  This is similar to inhaling spray paint or fingernail polish remover (see our prior blog on Substance Abuse In A Can – Inhalants).

Are you still having trouble believing this, knowing just the smell of hand sanitizer is bad enough, let alone the taste?  Check out these videos posted on YouTube – your eyes may be opened.

If you have experienced a situation involving hand sanitizer abuse, please share how you figured out what is going on.

Will the Oil Spill Effect You?

By now just about everyone has heard about the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We are now into the second month of oil spilling into the waters. How will this effect you? If you are not an off-shore worker you may be thinking “probably not much”. You may be wrong. Because this particular spill is actually located nearly a mile below the surface of the water, it’s toxicity effects the entire ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico.

There is plentiful life in the deep sea that’s in danger: fish, deep-sea corals, gelatinous zooplankton like jellyfish, and benthic-dwelling sharks, not to mention the diverse communites of shrimp, crabs, worms, and other critters that live there. “It’s like a lush jungle down there,” Joye says. (Dr. Samantha (Mandy) B. Joye, Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia) Even if oil exposure doesn’t kill these organisms, it could have chronic, long-term effects, like impaired growth or reproduction. Over time, any impact on the deep-sea communities is likely to have more broad effects, since the whole ocean is connected by various biological processes. “All the different zones of life are interactive in one way or another,” says Lisa Levin, a marine ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

What this means is that in the short term, workers and residents close to the spill will be exposed to vapors produced, or released by the oil and associated gases. In the long term, workers, residents and those who eat food from the Gulf of Mexico could be exposed to a food supply contaminated by oil by-products such as arsenic, lead, mercury, zinc, chromium-6 and other toxic elements.  Will this be enough to actually harm a person? At this point no one really knows – it is too soon to tell.


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We use our scientific expertise to provide our customers answers to their substance abuse, use and exposure questions.

We focus our personal character on supporting, caring for and understanding what our clients are going through as they contemplate and proceed through the testing process.

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