Forensic Toxicology

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 59–74 | Cite as

Interpreting oral fluid drug results in prisoners: monitoring current drug intake and detection times for drugs self-administered prior to detention

  • Elisabeth Leere ØiestadEmail author
  • Hege-Merete Krabseth
  • Marilyn Ann Huestis
  • Andreas Skulberg
  • Vigdis Vindenes
Original Article



Although urine is the most common matrix for prisoner drug testing, oral fluid offers a possible alternative. Identifying new drug intake by a prisoner results in negative sanctions. Detection times in oral fluid after chronic drug intake may be extended. Within the prison, admission population is chronic drug users. Our aim was to investigate detection windows for drugs of abuse in oral fluid from prisoners.


Nineteen frequent drug-abusing prisoners provided oral fluid and urine at admission and each morning thereafter for 9 consecutive days.


The most positive findings were for amphetamine/methamphetamine, cannabis and benzodiazepines. Maximum detection times in oral fluid were ≥ 9 days for diazepam, methadone and methamphetamine, with corresponding urinary detection times of ≥ 9, 7 and 6 days, respectively. Maximum oral fluid detection times were 9 days for clonazepam, 8 for oxazepam, 3 for amphetamine and nitrazepam, and 2 for tetrahydrocannabinol, with positive urinary detection times of 8, ≥ 9, 5, 7 and ≥ 9 days, respectively. Cocaine, morphine and 6-acetylmorphine were all positive only 1 day in oral fluid; cocaine and morphine were positive 1 and 2 days, respectively, in urine, while 6-acetylmorphine was not detected in urine.


We confirmed oral fluid as a viable matrix for monitoring drugs of abuse in prisoners. Windows of detection for benzodiazepines and amphetamines were up to 1 week, which is an important consideration for evaluating oral fluid drug testing results. Some likely new drug exposures were observed based on urine and oral fluid drug results, but there were few data to guide these interpretations.


Oral fluid/urine Detection time Drugs of abuse Prisoners Detection window 



We would like to thank Eirik Trøgstad, Svein Pettersen, Frank Kaasa, Leif Skaug and Stig Tore Kopperud for organizing the inclusion of prisoners in the project and excellent sample collection.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest. This study has not received any external financial support.

Ethical approval

The Norwegian Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics approved the study. Participation was voluntary, and participants could withdraw at any time without penalty. Written informed consent from 19 inmates from three prisons was obtained prior to inclusion after fully informing participants about the study.


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Copyright information

© Japanese Association of Forensic Toxicology and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Leere Øiestad
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hege-Merete Krabseth
    • 3
  • Marilyn Ann Huestis
    • 4
  • Andreas Skulberg
    • 5
  • Vigdis Vindenes
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Forensic SciencesOslo University HospitalOsloNorway
  2. 2.School of PharmacyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Clinical PharmacologySt. Olav University HospitalTrondheimNorway
  4. 4.Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Health, Institute of Emerging Health ProfessionsThomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  5. 5.Norwegian Directorate of HealthOsloNorway
  6. 6.Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research (SERAF)University of OsloOsloNorway

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