Hair testing of GHB: an everlasting issue in forensic toxicology

Francesco Paolo Busardò, Simona Pichini, Simona Zaami, Roberta Pacifici, Pascal Kintz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: In this paper, the authors present a critical review of different studies regarding hair testing of endogenous γ-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), concentrations in chronic users, and values measured after a single GHB exposure in drug facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) cases together with the role of a recently identified GHB metabolite, GHB-glucuronide.

CONTENT: The following databases (up to March 2017) PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science were used, searching the following key words: γ-hydroxybutyrate, GHB, GHB glucuronide, hair. The main key words "GHB" and "γ-hydroxybutyrate" were searched singularly and then associated individually to each of the other keywords.

SUMMARY: Of the 2304 sources found, only 20 were considered appropriate for the purpose of this paper. Summing up all the studies investigating endogenous GHB concentration in hair, a very broad concentration range from 0 to 12 ng/mg was found. In order to detect a single GHB dose in hair it is necessary to commonly wait 1 month for collecting hair and a segmental analysis of 3 or 5 mm fragments and the calculation of a ratio between the targeted segment and the others represent a reliable method to detect a single GHB intake considering that the ratios presently proposed vary from 3 and 10. The only two studies so far performed, investigating GHB-Glucuronide in hair, show that the latter does not seem to provide any diagnostic information regarding GHB exposure.

OUTLOOK: A practical operative protocol is proposed to be applied in all suspected cases of GHB-facilitated sexual assault (GHB-FSA).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-208
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 26 2018


  • Female
  • Forensic Toxicology/methods
  • Hair/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sodium Oxybate/analysis
  • Substance Abuse Detection/methods


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