Barbiturate detection in oral fluid, plasma, and urine.

Publication/Presentation Date



BACKGROUND: Although current abuse of barbiturates is low compared with other classes of abused drugs, their narrow margin of safety, risk of dependence, and abuse liability remain a health concern. Limited information is available on the disposition of barbiturates in different biologic matrices.

OBJECTIVE: The authors conducted a clinical study of the disposition of barbiturates in oral fluid, plasma, and urine after single-dose administration to healthy subjects.

METHODS: Three parallel groups of 15 subjects were administered a single oral dose of one barbiturate: butalbital (50 mg), Phenobarbital (30 mg), or sodium secobarbital (100 mg). Subjects remained at the clinic for two confinement periods; the first was -1 to 36 hours postdose and again at 48 to 52 hours. Oral fluid specimens were collected by bilateral collection (Intercept; one on each side of the mouth simultaneously). Blood specimens were obtained by venipuncture and urine specimens were collected through separate collection pools of varying periods. Oral fluid specimens were analyzed for barbiturates by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectroscopy with a limit of quantitation of 8 ng/mL. Plasma and urine specimens were analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy with a limit of quantitation of 100 ng/mL.

RESULTS: Barbiturate side effects included dizziness, drowsiness, and somnolence. All effects resolved spontaneously without medical intervention. The three barbiturates were detectable in oral fluid and plasma within 15 to 60 minutes of administration and in the first urine pooled collection at 2 hours. Butalbital and Phenobarbital remained detectable in all specimens through 48 to 52 hours, whereas secobarbital was frequently negative in the last collection. Oral fluid to plasma ratios appeared stable over the 1- to 48-hour collection period.

CONCLUSION: This study demonstrated that single, oral therapeutic doses of butalbital, Phenobarbital, and secobarbital were excreted in readily detectable concentrations in oral fluid over a period of approximately 2 days. Oral fluid patterns of appearance and elimination were similar to that observed for plasma and urine.





First Page


Last Page





Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Document Type