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Bioanalysis. 2010 May;2(5):965-79. doi: 10.4155/bio.10.32.

Bioanalysis of new designer drugs.

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Institute of Forensic Medicine, University Medical Centre Freiburg, Albertstraße 9, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.


Since the late 1990s the illicit drug market has undergone considerable change: along with the traditional drugs of abuse that still dominate, more than 100 psychotropic substances designed to bypass controlled substances legislation have appeared and led to intoxications and fatalities. Starting from the huge class of phenylalkylamines, containing many subgroups, the spectrum of structures has grown from tryptamines, piperazines, phenylcyclohexyl derivates and pyrrolidinophenones to synthetic cannabinoids and the first synthetic cocaine. Due to the small prevalence and high number of unknown substances, the detection of new designer drugs is a challenge for clinical and forensic toxicologists. Standard screening procedures might fail because a recently discovered or yet unknown substance has not been incorporated in the library used. Nevertheless, many metabolism studies, case reports, screening methods and substance-profiling papers concentrating on single compounds have been published. This review provides an overview of the developed bioanalytical and analytical methods, the matrices used, sample-preparation procedures, concentration of analytes in case of intoxication and also gives a résumé of immunoassay experiences. Additionally, six screening methods for biological matrices with a larger spectrum of analytes are described in more detail.

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