Phencyclidine Detection in Nails
Journal of Analytical Toxicology
Tothe Editor: Historically, the chemical analysis of human nails has been used for detecting transition metals (1) and, in the last 20 years or so, drugs of abuse (2). Published articles have reported the presence of amphetamines (3), opioids (4), cannabinoids (5), and cocaine and metabolites (6). We describe the first report of the detection of phencyclidine (PCP) in nails. Finger-and toenails were collected as previously described (7) from decedents who were autopsied under the jurisdiction
... the jurisdiction of the Cuyahoga County Coroner, Cleveland, Ohio. Subjects were chosen for inclusion in the study if they had a history of drug abuse and/or were involved in a drug-related homicide. If the blood and/or urine tested positive for PCP according to the laboratory's quantitative base procedure [(LOQ 50 ng/mL) by liquid-liquid extraction followed by GC-NPD detection and quantitation with qualitative confirmation by GC-MS EI operated in full scan mode], the nails were assayed utilizing the same analytical procedure. Approximately 100-200 mg of nails was washed by vortex mixing for 15 s three times with 3 mL of methanol. The methanolic washes were combined and assayed as one sample. The washed nails were dried, cut into small pieces, weighed, and placed into 3.0 mL of 1.0N sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and 200 ng of PCP-ds. After sonication for 1 h, the nails were further soaked in 1.0N NaOH overnight at room temperature. The previously published basic drug extraction procedure was fo]Jowed at this step (8). A caJibration curve with QC was constructed by spiking 100 mg of drug-free nails with 10, 20, 50, 100,200, 400, 600, and 800 ng of PCP in 3.0 mL of 1.0N NaOH. In this study, four decedents were identified; toe-and fingernails were collected from three individuals, and only toenails were available in the fourth case. The decedents were all black males between the ages of 18 and 28 years and homicide victims. All died from gunshot wounds--cases #1 and #2 with wounds to the head and cases #3 and #4 with multiple gunshot wounds. Individuals #3 and #4 died in the same incident. The results of the analysis are detailed in Table I . The blood (heart) PCP concentrations ranged from 70 to 1270 ng/mL (n = 4, mean + SD = 460 ng/mL + 548, median 250). All urine specimens were positive for PCP. The concentration in nails ranged from a low of 0.33 ng/mg in the right foot toenails of case #1 to 147.9 ng/mg in the left hand fingernails of case #3. In the three cases for which both finger-and toenails were collected, PCP concentrations in the fingernails were higher than concentrations in the corresponding toenails. PCP concentrations in the nails of the left and right hand were similar for all cases except case #3. In this case, the concentration of PCP in the nails of the ]eft hand was seven times higher than the concentration in the right hand. Similarly, for the three cases with both right and left toenails, two cases had similar PCP toenail concentrations. For case #2, the concentration of PCP in the left toenail was six times greater than the drug concentration in the right toenails.