Since despite the increasing number of designer drugs available there are few comprehensive screening techniques for their detection and quantification in biological specimens, this article reports on the liquid chromatography triple quadrupole tandem mass spectrometry (LC-QQQ-MS/MS) method, which encompasses over 30 important compounds within the phenethylamine, tryptamine, and piperazine designer drug classes.
Analytes were determined by LC-QQQ-MS/MS in the multiple-reaction monitoring mode after mixed-mode solid-phase extraction. The bioanalytical method was fully validated according to recommended international guidelines. The assay was selective for all analytes with acceptable accuracy and precision. Limits of quantification were in the range of 1–10 ng/mL for each compound with limits of detection near 10 pg/mL. In order to evaluate its applicability in a forensic toxicological setting, the validated method was used to analyze post-mortem specimens from two cases that were suspected of containing designer drugs. The method was able to identify and quantify seven of these compounds at concentrations as low as 11 ng/mL. The method should have wide applicability for rapid screening of important new drugs of abuse at high sensitivity in both post- and ante-mortem forensic analysis. (publisher abstract modified)