Henry Ford Hospital Medical Journal


Cocaine abuse has increased greatly in recent years, creating important medical, legal, and social problems. Urine drug testing is used to diagnose cocaine ingestion. The presence of the cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine (BZ) is commonly believed to be proof of recent cocaine intoxication. However, oral ingestion of even a minute quantity of cocaine can result in a positive test result. BZ was detected in the urine of four nonbreast-fed infants aged 6 weeks to 14 months who were admitted with diagnoses unrelated to cocaine poisoning. These infants were exposed to cocaine by passive inhalation of vapors generated by adult caretakers smoking "crack" cocaine. Two of the infants were retested 12 hours later and had no detectable BZ, strongly suggesting ingestion of a subpharmacologic amount of cocaine. Because passive inhalation of cocaine can produce measurable urine BZ concentrations, a positive urine screen does not necessarily indicate poisoning or intentional administration of the substance and therefore is not proof of child abuse or neglect.