Screening Method Development for the Identification of Designer Drugs by GC-MSn and LC-MS/MS

  • Madison Fulmer
  • Tammy Boles
  • Jeffrey Boles


Recreational use of synthetic drugs is a problem not just in Tennessee, but nationwide. Two types of synthetic drugs are the biggest problem: cannabinoids (synthetic marijuana) and cathinones (bath salts). The criminal justice system is having a hard time keeping up with the detection of all of these “designer drugs” because they are constantly being altered with slight variations, creating a new drug that is technically not illegal. Because many of the compounds have similar structures, they are difficult to separate chromatographically. Drug laboratory personnel need verifiable published analytical methods for the compounds in order to be able to have applications for forensic purposes. This research focuses on developing easier, faster methods for detecting cathinones using instrumentation currently available in forensic chemistry labs. Previously published methods for the GC-MS were analyzed and replicated. Once a method was replicated successfully, methods for GC-MSn and LC-MS/MS were developed and tested using known standards of cathinone and methcathinone of various concentrations. Unknown samples received from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were then extracted and analyzed using the developed methods.