A simple, rapid and sensitive method has been developed and validated for the determination of cocaine and its main metabolites (benzoylecgonine and cocaethylene) in human hair. The method involved solid-phase extraction with an Oasis HLB extraction cartridge and subsequent analysis by GC/MS. The limit of detection was 0.01 ng mg−1 for cocaine, 0.04 for benzoylecgonine and 0.03 for cocaethylene. The method validation included linearity (with a correlation coefficient >0.99 over the range 0.2–50 ng mg−1), intra- and inter-day precision (always lower than 12%) and accuracy (mean relative error always below 17%) to meet the bioanalytical acceptance criteria. The procedure was further applied to 40 hair samples from self-reported cocaine users arrested by the police who provided a positive urine-analysis for cocaine, and was demonstrated to be suitable for its application in forensic toxicology. New approaches were raised to detect false-negative results that allow a better interpretation of hair testing results. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.