Metabolites are organic compounds involved in or produced by chemical reactions that take place within our bodies. The process is called metabolism and is accountable for breaking down food and other substances into energy and materials for development. Metabolism also removes toxic or harmful substances from our system, such as drugs and alcohol.
A metabolite may refer to a starting, intermediate or end product material of the metabolism process. A primary metabolite is directly involved in the body’s development, e.g. food while a secondary metabolite is not directly involved in the process but usually plays an important role, e.g. antibiotics.
The metabolic process is stimulated by the ingestion of an organic material such as food. This organic material is known as the starting metabolite and will often include vitamins and amino acids. These materials are broken down into simpler or more complex molecules to benefit the body. The most common reactions convert complex molecules into simple proteins for growth and breakdown glucose into chemical energy.
End product metabolites are the substances that result from the breakdown of the starting metabolite. As these have no further use, they are normally excreted from the body. Toxins and drugs must always be broken down into an end product metabolite form before they can be removed.
What is Drug Metabolism?
Drug metabolism is the body’s process of transforming the substances within a drug and removing the by-products from the body. Drugs do not ‘activate’ until they have undergone this process which most often takes place in the liver.
Drugs are treated as foreign by the body and have the medical term of xenobiotics. Age, sex, genetics and the bacteria in the intestinal tract can all affect the speed at which drugs are metabolised. For example, people with a high drug metabolism rate might need a higher dosage of codeine to see an affect.
How Can Metabolites Aid Hair Drug Tests?
Usually, the active ingredient in a drug is a metabolite and this must undergo the process of metabolism within the body before it can release its medicinal effect. Therefore, end product metabolites are produced as a result of ingesting the drug.
The blood flow will deposit a trace of the substance and its resulting metabolite in the hair shaft. Whereas detecting evidence of the drug only proves that it is associated with the patient, evidence of a related metabolite proves that the drug was ingested. As specific metabolites are produced per specific drug, scientists like those at www.lextox.co.uk can gain accurate clarification of the drug’s consumption.
The poorer the metabolic rate of the patient, the longer the detection period. And whereas evidence of the drug may pass out of the body via excretion, metabolites often remain in the blood stream for a longer period.