Use of Hair Testing to Determine Methadone Exposure in Pediatric Deaths



A case of death attributed to methadone acute poisoning in an infant aged 11 months is reported. A sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was suspected, whereas a traumatic cause of death was excluded regarding autopsy findings. Specimens were submitted to a large toxicological analysis, which included ethanol measurement by HS-GC-FID, a targeted screening for drugs of abuse and various prescription drug classes followed by quantification using UPLC-MS/MS methods. Methadone and its metabolite (EDDP) were detected in all the tested fluids, as well as in hair, with a blood concentration of methadone considered as lethal for children (73 ng/mL). The cause of death was determined to be acute “methadone poisoning”, and the manner of death was “accidental”. A discussion of the case circumstances, the difficulties with the interpretation of toxicological findings in children (blood concentration and hair testing), and the origin of exposure are discussed.