Analysis of street drugs in seized material without primary reference standards

Anal Chem. 2004 Dec 15;76(24):7375-9. doi: 10.1021/ac048913p.


A novel approach was used to analyze street drugs in seized material without primary reference standards. Identification was performed by liquid chromatography/time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC/TOFMS), essentially based on accurate mass determination using a target library of 735 exact monoisotopic masses. Quantification was carried out by liquid chromatography/chemiluminescence nitrogen detection (LC/CLND) with a single secondary standard (caffeine), utilizing the detector's equimolar response to nitrogen. Sample preparation comprised dilution, first with methanol and further with the LC mobile phase. Altogether 21 seized drug samples were analyzed blind by the present method, and results were compared to accredited reference methods utilizing identification by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and quantification by gas chromatography or liquid chromatography. The 31 drug findings by LC/TOFMS comprised 19 different drugs-of-abuse, byproducts, and adulterants, including amphetamine and tryptamine designer drugs, with one unresolved pair of compounds having an identical mass. By the reference methods, 27 findings could be confirmed, and among the four unconfirmed findings, only 1 apparent false positive was found. In the quantitative analysis of 11 amphetamine, heroin, and cocaine findings, mean relative difference between the results of LC/CLND and the reference methods was 11% (range 4.2-21%), without any observable bias. Mean relative standard deviation for three parallel LC/CLND results was 6%. Results suggest that the present combination of LC/TOFMS and LC/CLND offers a simple solution for the analysis of scheduled and designer drugs in seized material, independent of the availability of primary reference standards.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamines / analysis
  • Caffeine / analysis
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / standards
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / analysis*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Mass Spectrometry / standards
  • Narcotics / analysis*
  • Reference Standards
  • Tryptamines / analysis


  • Amphetamines
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Narcotics
  • Tryptamines
  • Caffeine