Since to address challenges associated with the increased prevalence of novel psychoactive substances (NPSs), laboratories often adopt new techniques or new methods with the goal of obtaining more detailed chemical information with a higher level of confidence, the current project demonstrated how new methods applied to existing techniques can be a viable approach, using a targeted gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) method for synthetic cathinones.
To create the method, a range of GC-MS parameters were first investigated using a seven-component test solution with the goal of minimizing compounds with overlapping acceptance windows by maximizing retention time differences within a reasonable runtime. Once developed, the targeted method was evaluated through several studies and was compared to a general GC-MS confirmatory method. The method produced a twofold increase in retention time differences of the test solution compounds with a 3.83-min shorter runtime than the general method. Limitations of the method were also studied by analyzing an additional forty-eight cathinones to identify instances where definitive compound identification may not be possible due to overlapping acceptance windows and mass spectra. Thirty-eight pairs of compounds had retention times differences of less than 2% and, of those thirty-eight, one pair had indistinguishable mass spectra. A set of case samples were also analyzed using the method to evaluate suitability for casework. An increase in split ratio was required to obtain acceptable sensitivity. The development of this method is part of a larger project to measure benefits and drawbacks of different drug chemistry workflows. (Publisher Abstract)