Hair Analysis as a Diagnostic and Forensic Tool in a Social Support System for Families with Underage Children and Drug Abusing Parents: Four Year Experience

Fritz Pragst, Martin Hastedt, Franziska Krumbiegel, Sieglinde Herre


Between 2011 and 2014, 388 hair samples from children (age 1-14 years) and 594 hair samples from parents/caregivers were analyzed for methadone, opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy, cannabinoids and benzodiazepines by LC-MS/MS and GC-MS. Hair testing was preferentially performed for parents/ caregivers. Children were included in case of positive parents/caregivers results or in urgent cases after a court decision if the parents/caregivers declined the testing. A follow-up hair test was performed after 6-months (positive results) or 12-months (negative results). Results: The children hair appeared to be a sensitive indicator of the handling of drugs in their environment and often showed a similar or the same drug profile as their parents. The annual statistics for the initial test of children were no drugs 22-33%, methadone 9-25%, heroin 7.5-28%, cocaine 46-57%, amphetamines and ecstasy 1.6-7.0%, cannabinoids 21-49% and benzodiazepines 0-5%. As a rule, concentrations in hair of younger children were higher than of their elder siblings. In severe cases and based on the entire information about the case, the children were immediately taken into custody, the family court was appealed, the children were admitted to children's homes or foster families, or the drug consuming adult was separated from the family and a withdrawal treatment was initiated. Follow-up tests showed an improvement in the situation of the children particularly in severe cases. Conclusion: Hair analysis proved to be a very efficient working instrument for social authorities in the systematic improvement of child-welfare in drug abusing environments.


Child welfare, Drug abuse, Hair analysis, Social services, Methadone maintenance

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