Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB, is a substance naturally present within mammal species. Properties of neurotransmitter or neuromodulator are generally given to this substance. GHB is therapeutically used as an anesthetic, but can be used for criminal offenses (date-rape drug).
It appears that the window of detection of GHB is very short in both blood and urine, and therefore its presence is very difficult to prove after a rape case.
In order to document single exposure, we investigated the use of hair.
Hair was collected one month after the allegated event in order to sample the corresponding period after regular growing.
After rapid (2 min) decontamination with dichloromethane, the hair shaft was cut into 3-mm segments. They were overnight incubated in 0.01 N NaOH in the presence of GHB-d6, followed by neutralization and extraction in ethyl acetate under acidic conditions. GHB (precursor ion m/z 233, product ions m/z 147 and 148) was tested by GC/MS/MS (Finnigan TSQ 700) after derivatization with BSTFA + 1% TMCS.
Physiological concentrations (n = 24) were in the range 0.5 to 12.0 ng/mg, with no influence due to hair color. No variation of concentrations was observed along the hair shaft in controlled subjects, except for the proximal segment, due to an incorporation through sweat. This demonstrates that endogenous levels for each single subject are constant during hair growth.
A controlled human administration of 25 mg/kg to a volunteer demonstrated that a single exposure to GHB is detectable in hair after segmentation.
In a case of rape under influence, a clear increase of the corresponding segment (about 2.4 ng/mg) in time was observed, in comparison with the other segments (0.6 to 0.8 ng/mg).
This study demonstrates that a single exposure to GHB in a case of sexual assault can be documented by hair analysis when collected about one month after the crime.
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