Understanding 6-Monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM)
One of three active metabolites of heroin, 6-Monoacetylmorphine or 6-MAM occurs as a metabolite once heroin has undergone first-pass metabolism. It is then metabolized into morphine and excreted via the kidneys as urine.
This metabolism into morphine presents a challenge in detecting heroin use from other legally taken opiates. Testing for 6-MAM thus hurdles this challenge. Since 6-MAM is the initial product after heroin is metabolized, with no other substance producing this metabolite, its presence therefore confirms usage of heroin.
False positives in drug tests
Drug testing has become a standard requirement in clinical and workplace settings. A lot of the drug testing kits used in these settings are easy to use and produce quick results. However, some of these kits often produce false positive results if used to test for heroin in the body. For example, if an immunoassay drug test is used, the presence of morphine will be detected.
Aside from being a metabolite of heroin, morphine is also a metabolite of other opiate-based pain killers such as codeine, which some people are legally taking as medication. A false positive result can also be due to ingestion of poppy seeds often added to baked goods such as bagels or cupcakes. Using a 6-MAM drug test kit to detect heroin usage would then prevent mistaken accusations towards those taking opiates legally, or ingesting them inadvertently in the case of poppy seeds.
On the other hand, there are also cases where medication with codeine or other opiates are intentionally used to mask heroin use. In environments where using legal opiates is done to mask heroin usage, the specificity of 6-MAM drug testing alleviates the need for additional testing.
Detection of 6-MAM in urine
6-monoacetylmorphine has a short half-life; the presence of 6-MAM in urine positively indicates recent heroin use. Due to its short half-life 6-monoacetylmorphine levels can only be detected within six to eight hours after heroin usage, pressing the need for a urine sample to be collected as soon as possible. On the flip side, 6-MAM’s short half-life strongly indicates heroin use as recent as the previous day.
Efficiency and Cost savings with 6-MAM testing
6-MAM heroin specific drug testing offers efficiency and cost savings for employment and workplace screening purposes especially when used as part of a multi-panel drug testing kit. In employment drug tests where heroin usage is specifically screened, this means that applicants taking pain killers with low doses of codeine won’t test positive. This also presents a cost-savings element with workplace drug testing as false positives are avoided. In most companies where more general drug testing kits are used, employees that test positive would miss days of work while additional tests are being done to confirm. In clinical settings, eliminating the chance of false positives would lead to a higher level of trust between doctor and patient.
The 6-MAM Heroin Specific Drug Testing kits come in individually wrapped strips that detect 10ng of 6-MAM in urine. This 6-MAM drug test was developed in 2015 and commercially released in 2016 both as single test kits or part of multi-panel combination drug testing kits.