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J Anal Toxicol. 2012 Jul;36(6):360-71. doi: 10.1093/jat/bks047. Epub 2012 May 14.

Analysis of first and second generation legal highs for synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants by ultra-performance liquid chromatography and time of flight mass spectrometry.

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AIT Laboratories, Indianapolis, IN 46241, USA.


Various "legal high" products were tested for synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants to qualitatively determine the active ingredient(s). Ultra-performance liquid chromatography with accurate mass time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UPLC-TOF) was used to monitor the non-biological specimens utilizing a customized panel of 65+ compounds comprised of synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic stimulants and other related drugs. Over the past year, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency has controlled five synthetic cannabinoid compounds (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497 and CP-47,497-C8) and three synthetic stimulant compounds (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone, mephedrone and methylone) that were previously reported to be detected in these legal high products. Through our analyses of first and second generation products, it was shown that many of these banned substances are no longer used and have been replaced by other derivatives that are federally legal. Since enactment of the federal bans on synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants, 4.9% of the products analyzed at our facility contained at least one controlled substance. The remaining 95.1% of products contained only uncontrolled drugs. We demonstrate the UPLC-TOF methodology to be a powerful tool in the qualitative identification of these designer drugs, thus enabling a laboratory to keep current with the drugs that are being sold as these designer products.

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