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High Resolution Mass Spectrometry Drug Screening in Forensic Toxicology: A Cost Benefit Analysis

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Date Published

Through this paper, the author seeks to provide new scientific methods for toxicological screening that meet the needs of the criminal justice system as well as to provide valuable insight to operational forensic laboratories who may be facing this technological shift with limited resources.


The author of this paper addresses the need for forensic toxicology research to manage the persistent development of new psychoactive substances (NPS) in the United States, with the knowledge that high resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) will likely replace immunoassay-based screening, since HRMS offers flexibility, sensitivity, and improved selectivity. The author also notes that operational laboratories have been slow to adopt this new technology because of limited resources, complexity of operation, and training needs associated with its implementation. With those factors in mind, this paper reports on a study that used liquid chromatography-quadrupole-time of flight mass spectrometry (LC-QTOF-MS) to develop, optimize, and validate a comprehensive drug screening procedure that met published standards and recommendations for forensic investigations. This new method was used to reanalyze adjudicated blood samples from two populations of impaired drivers in Texas and California that were previously tested using immunoassay. Following the direct comparison of IA and HRMS-based screening results, the author reports on a full cost-benefit analysis that sought to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of each approach in terms of fiscal impact, resource management, training, and technological challenges. 

Date Published: January 1, 2022