A Quantitative LC–MS/MS Method for the Detection of 16 Synthetic Cathinones and 10 Metabolites and Its Application to Suspicious Clinical and Forensic Urine Samples

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Abstract

Background: Synthetic cathinones currently represent one of the most predominant (sub)-classes of new psychoactive substance (NPS) in illicit drug markets. Despite the increased concerns caused by the constant introduction of new analogues, these drugs are not commonly assayed in routine drug testing procedures and may not be detected in standard screening procedures. This study presents a validated liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) method for the detection and quantification of 16 synthetic cathinones and 10 metabolites in human urine. Methods: The method was validated for all analytes using published guidelines. The evaluated parameters achieved acceptable values according to the set criteria. Potential abuse of synthetic cathinones was investigated in suspicious urine samples from Saudi Arabia originating from workplace drug testing, pre-employment and Accident & Emergency (A&E). Such samples generated a presumptive positive immunoassay for amphetamine; however, they yielded a negative LC–MS/MS confirmation for this analyte, following the recommended cutoff values of Substance of Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) guidelines. Results: 5.8% of the analyzed samples were found to contain at least one target analyte, namely mephedrone and N-ethylpentylone, as well as their dihydro-metabolites. The results also revealed polydrug use with the synthetic cathinones being present together with other classical stimulant drugs. Conclusions: This is the first report of NPS use in Saudi Arabia with respect to designer stimulant drugs. Confirmatory urine analyses for suspicious stimulant use should extend beyond classical stimulants to cover a broad range of NPSs and their metabolites in order to report any otherwise potentially undetected/new analyte.
Original languageEnglish
Article number510
JournalPharmaceuticals
Volume15
Issue number5
Early online date22 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

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