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Metabolism and Analysis of Desomorphine

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2018
283 pages

This research project examined desomorphine's metabolism and its detection in biological specimens, so as to facilitate its identification in clinical and forensic toxicology laboratories.


Desomorphine is described as a semi-synthetic opioid that is 10 times more potent than morphine, with a faster onset but shorter duration of action. It is a major component of the drug called "Krokodil," which is used as a heroin substitute. Its prevalence is difficult to estimate due to a lack of analytically confirmed cases. This may be partly due to the limited studies of its pharmacology or methodology for detecting the drug in biological specimens. The current study assessed six commercially available enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays to determine their effectiveness in detecting desomorphine. Desomorphine was analyzed in blood and urine samples, using gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and liquid chromatography-quadrupole/time of flight-mass spectrometry (LC-Q/TOF-MS). In addition, LC-Q/TOF=MS was used to analyze desomorphine metabolites, which were generated in-vitro due to the absence of commercially available reference material or authentic urine specimens. This report concludes that this research provides the forensic toxicology community with comprehensive information regarding desomorphine's metabolism and its analysis, using multiple techniques that will assist in its identification. It is the first study to describe the analysis of desomorphine in urine using LC-MS/MS and the first to describe the use of LC-Q/TOF-MS to analyze desomorphine in biological specimens. 42 figures, 25 tables, and extensive references

Date Published: December 1, 2018