Occurrence of bacterial and toxic metals contamination in illegal opioid-like drugs in Iran: a significant health challenge in drug abusers



The toxic metals and/or bacterial contaminants in illicit drugs are the main health problems in drug users worldwide. Hence, the potential risks of these contaminants were evaluated in some of the illicit drugs during 2015 and 2016.


The metals analysis were performed using graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometry. In addition, all microbiological analysis stages, including handling procedures, dilution, and culture media, were conducted in accordance with the US Pharmacopeia (USP) which are harmonized with the European Pharmacopoeia (EP).


In the present study, the highest lead (Pb; 138.10 ± 75.01 μg/g) and chromium (Cr; 447.38 ± 20.27 μg/g) levels were detected in opium samples. In addition, the highest prevalence of microbial contamination was observed in opium samples, and the lowest was recorded in heroin samples. Clostridium tetani, with about 50% of contaminant, was the most common bacteria in the analyzed samples.


Our results indicate that Pb exposure as well as bacterial contamination could be the major threats for drug users.

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This study was supported by grant No. 19710127901001 of Islamic Azad University, Shahreza Branch, Shahreza, Iran.

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Correspondence to Amir Nili-Ahmadabadi.

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Aghababaei, R., Javadi, I., Nili-Ahmadabadi, A. et al. Occurrence of bacterial and toxic metals contamination in illegal opioid-like drugs in Iran: a significant health challenge in drug abusers. DARU J Pharm Sci 26, 77–83 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40199-018-0205-5

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  • Drug user
  • Opium
  • Heroin
  • Heavy metal toxicity