Júlio S, Ferro RA, Santos S, Alexandre A, Caldeira MJ, Franco J, Barroso M, Gaspar H.

Over the past 15 years, synthetic cathinones have emerged as an important class of new psychoactive substances (NPS) worldwide. The proliferation of these psychostimulants and their sought-after efects among recreational drug users pose a serious threat to public health and enormous challenges to forensic laboratories. For forensic institutions, it is essential to be one step ahead of covert laboratories, foreseeing the structural changes possible to introduce in the core skeleton of cathinones while maintaining their stimulating activity. In this manner, it is feasible to equip themselves with standards of possible new cathinones and validated analytical methods for their qualitative and quantitative detection. Therefore, the aim of the work herein described was to synthesize emerging cathinones based on the evolving patterns in the illicit drug market, and to develop an analytical method for their accurate determination in forensic situations. Five so far unreported cathinones [4′-methyl-N-dimethylbuphedrone (4-MDMB), 4′-methyl-N-ethylbuphedrone (4-MNEB), 4′-methyl-N dimethylpentedrone (4-MDMP), 4′-methyl-N-dimethylhexedrone (4-MDMH), and 4′-methyl-N-diethylbuphedrone (4-MDEB)] and a sixth one, 4′-methyl-N-ethylpentedrone, already reported to EMCDDA and also known as 4-MEAP, were synthesized and fully characterized by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and mass spectrometry (MS). An analytical method for the simultaneous quantifcation of these cathinones in blood, using solid phase extraction (SPE) combined with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC–MS) was developed and validated. The results prove that this methodology is selective, linear, precise, and accurate. For all target cathinones, the extraction efciency was higher than 73%, linearity was observed in the range of 10 (lower limit of quantifcation, LLOQ) to 800 ng/mL, with coefcients of determination higher than 0.99, and the limits of detection (LODs) were 5 ng/mL for all target cathinones. The stability of these cathinones in blood matrices is dependent on the storage conditions; 4-MNEB is the most stable compound and 4-MDMH is the least stable compound. The low limits obtained allow the detection of the compounds in situations where they are involved, even if present at low concentrations.

Doi: 10.1007/s00216-022-04440-6

Júlio S, Ferro RA, Santos S, Alexandre A, Caldeira MJ, Franco J, Barroso M, Gaspar H (2022) Synthesis of emerging cathinones and validation of a SPE GC-MS method for their simultaneous quantification in blood. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, , . doi: 10.1007/s00216-022-04440-6