Novel psychoactive substances (NPS) are similar in structure to scheduled compounds, but differ in structure enough that they are not considered illegal. NPS have similar effects to their scheduled counterparts and are sold on the street in order to avoid drug laws.
Since each new NPS has a structure different than ones before it they cannot be immediately scheduled, therefore the sale of these compounds cannot be stopped immediately.
NPS pose serious complications for both consumers and forensic scientists. As for consumers, little is known about potency and body-drug interactions leading to toxicity and hospitalization. The high number of possible NPS structures makes it very difficult for forensic laboratories to identify them in biological fluids.
Recently, the sale and use of NPS have been on the rise. Many established screening methods for common drugs of abuse, like immunoassays, are incapable of detecting a large number of known NPS. Due to the increased usage of these substances it is imperative that there are comprehensive methods available that are capable of detecting a wide variety NPS that fall under different drug classes. This research proposes to optimize and validate a screening/confirmatory method capable of detecting over 800 NPS using liquid chromatography triple quadruple mass spectrometry (LC-QqQ-MS). The two most common biological matrices testing when screening for drugs of abuse are urine and whole blood.
Sample prep is very important when using these matrices because they are composed of compounds that can cause a number of matrix effects, making it difficult to detect the desired drug of abuse. There are a number of established methods of extraction when dealing with common drugs of abuse in urine or blood, but there is no one optimized method for the extraction of NPS.
Even though many NPS have structures related to common drugs of abuse, it is important to have one extraction method capable of extracting multiple NPS. This would decrease cost and analysis time while potentially increasing drug recovery. This project aims to create an optimal extraction method for NPS in urine and whole blood by comparing dilute/crash and shoot, on-line solid phase extraction (SPE), Captiva®, and QuEChERS.
This optimized extraction method coupled with the validated LC-QqQ-MS screening/confirmatory method will be beneficial to the identification of novel psychoactive substances in forensic toxicology screening. Findings will be published in a doctoral dissertation, at least two peer-reviewed articles, and in presentations at national scientific meetings.