Florida International University’s department of chemistry and biochemistry and its International Forensics Research Institute is collaborating with Agilent Technologies to further advance the identification and characterization of so-called designer drugs.
This work is currently focused on developing and validating new methods for rapid forensic screening and analysis based on advanced chromatography and mass-spectrometry systems such as LC-QQQ-MS/MS, LC-QTOF-MS, GC/MS and GC/MS/MS. The new methods will expand the capabilities of traditional drug-screening procedures involving immunoassays.
“Since routine immunoassay drug-screening methods are unable to detect most of the hundreds of individual designer drugs that have been identified, we are working with Agilent to develop advanced analytical methods to screen and confirm the presence of such drugs in both ante- and post-mortem specimens,” said Dr. Anthony DeCaprio, associate professor and director of the Forensic & Analytical Toxicology facility at Florida International University’s International Forensic Research Institute. “Recently, we validated a method for the detection and quantification of 32 designer drugs in serum, including 24 phenethylamines, four piperazines, and four tryptamines. In collaboration with Agilent, we will continue to expand our tandem mass-spectral library to approximately 300 designer drugs.”
Dr. DeCaprio will present data of interest to forensic scientists and toxicologists in an e-seminar on Wednesday, Feb. 27, as part of a six-seminar series (live and on-demand) at ForensicEd.org. To learn more about the Florida International University designer drug program, visit “Targeted LC-QQQ MS Screening of Cathinone Derivitaves and Other Designer Drugs in Serum.”
Designer drugs are novel analogs or derivatives of existing illicit drug compounds that are synthesized to circumvent existing laws and to produce similar effects as illegal recreational drugs. Major classes of designer drugs include phenethylamines, cathinones, tryptamines, piperazines, and synthetic cannabinoids. For years, black-market laboratories could produce and distribute these drugs with little to no threat of prosecution, until last summer when U.S. President Obama signed a bill into law designating certain chemicals found in designer drugs as illegal substances. Today, as with other illicit drugs already covered under federal law, selling and distributing many specific designer drugs is now prohibited in the United States.
“It is our goal to provide private, academic and government institutions with sophisticated technology and screening methods that will quickly and accurately identify these substances so that laws enacted to restrict their use can be readily enforced,” said Tom Gluodenis, Agilent’s global marketing manager of Forensics and Toxicology. “We look forward continuing our work with Dr. DeCaprio and his team at Florida International University, and commend them on their ambitious efforts in this important area of research.”