Interpretation of the presence of 6-monoacetylmorphine in the absence of morphine-3-glucuronide in urine samples: evidence of heroin abuse
Roth SH.
von Euler M, Villen T, Svensson JO, Stahle L.
Division of CLinical Pharmacology,
Huddinge University Hospital,
Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Ther Drug Monit. 2003 Oct;25(5):645-8..


The presence of morphine in a urinary sample may be caused not only by intake of heroin but also by intake of poppy-seed-containing food shortly before urine sampling or intake of drugs containing morphine, ethyl morphine, or codeine. To facilitate the interpretation, the heroin-specific metabolite 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) can be analyzed along with morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G) in an LC-MS verification analysis. In sporadic samples positive in the immunologic opiate screening test, 6-MAM, but not M3G, was found. To systematically analyze the finding all specimens with positive 6-MAM and/or M3G found during a 1-year period were investigated (n = 1923). Of these, 423 were positive for 6-MAM. In 32 (7.6%) of the samples 6-MAM was detected while the M3G concentrations were below cutoff (300 ng/mL) and in some cases even below the limit of detection (15 ng/mL). The 32 samples with this excretion pattern came from 13 different individuals, all but one with previously known heroin abuse. Eleven urine samples, nine containing M3G and 6-MAM and two with only 6-MAM, were also analyzed for the presence of heroin. In six samples, including the two with only 6-MAM, heroin was detected. There are several plausible explanations for these findings. The intake may have taken place shortly before urine sampling. High concentrations of heroin and 6-MAM may inhibit UGT 2B7, the enzyme responsible for glucuronidation of morphine. The hydrolyzation of 6-MAM to morphine may be disturbed by either internal or external causes. To elucidate this, further studies are required. Nevertheless, our finding demonstrates that routine measurement of 6-MAM when verifying opioid-positive immunologic screening results facilitates interpretation of low concentrations of M3G in urine specimens.
Opium timeline
Opioid receptors
High 6-MAM in heroin users
Mu opioid receptor subtypes
6-monoacetylmorphine and the mu receptors

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