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Identification and Quantification of Synthetic Cathinones in Blood and Urine Using Liquid Chromatography-Quadrupole/Time of Flight (LC-Q/TOF) Mass Spectrometry

NCJ Number
Journal of Chromatography B-Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences Volume: 1035 Dated: November 2016 Pages: 91-103
Date Published
November 2016
13 pages

This article reports on the use of solid phase extraction (SPE) and liquid chromatography-quadrupole/time of flight (LC-Q/TOF) mass spectrometry to identify 22 synthetic cathinones in urine and blood.


Synthetic cathinones continue to present a formidable challenge to forensic toxicology laboratories, despite the fact that they are often encountered in impaired driving and death investigations. Due to limitations in immunoassay-based screening technologies, many forensic toxicology laboratories must rely on more labor-intensive chromatographic-based screening approaches in order to detect these drugs in biological evidence. In the current study, target drugs included methcathinone, ethcathtinone, pentedrone, buphedrone, 3-fluoromethcathinone (3-FMC), 4-fluoromethcathinone (4-FMC), 4-methylethcathinone (4-MEC), 4-ethylmethcathinone (4-EMC), mephedrone, methylethcathinone (4-MEC) 4-ethylmethcathtinone (4-EMC) ethylone, butylone, pentylone, eutylone, methylone, methylenedioxcypyrovalerone (MDPV), 4-methlpyrrolidinobutiophenone (MPBP), 3.4-methylpyrrolidinobutiophenone (MPBP), a-pyrrodlidinopentiphenone (a-PVP) pyrovalerone, and naphyrone. A total of nine deuterated internal standards were used. Using traditional reversed phase chromatography, all positional isomers, including 3-FMC and 4-FMC, were separated in 12 minutes. The procedure was validated in accordance with the Scientific Working Group for Forensic Toxicology (SWGTOX) Standard Practices for Method Validation. Extraction efficiencies were 84-104 percent and 81-93 percent in urine and blood, respectively. Limits of quantitation in both matrices were 0.25-5 ng/ml. Precision, bias, and matrix effect were all within acceptable thresholds, and the assay was free from more than 50 interferences. The validated method was used to identify cathinones in authentic urine case samples (n=20), and these results highlight important consideration for cathinone stability and the subsequent interpretation of results (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: November 1, 2016