Detection and quantification of new designer drugs in human blood: Part 1 - Synthetic cannabinoids

J Anal Toxicol. 2012 Jul;36(6):372-80. doi: 10.1093/jat/bks048. Epub 2012 May 16.


Synthetic cannabinoids sprayed on herbal mixtures have been abused as a new designer drug all over the world since 2004. In 2008, the first compounds, CP 47,497 and JWH-018, were identified as active ingredients in these mixtures. Most of the compounds have been synthesized for research purposes and are potent CB1 and/or CB2 receptor agonists. To investigate the presence of synthetic cannabinoids in blood samples, a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS-MS) method was developed using only 100 µL of blood. After the addition of 0.2 mL of trizma buffer, the blood was extracted using liquid-liquid extraction with 1 mL of 1-chlorobutane containing 10% of isopropanol for 5 min on a shaker at 1,500 rpm. After centrifugation at 12,000 rpm for 1 min, the separated solvent layer was transferred to an autosampler vial and evaporated to dryness under N₂. The residue was reconstituted in methanol and injected into a Shimadzu 8030 LC-MS-MS system to separate and detect 25 synthetic cannabinoids. The method has been validated according to international guidelines and was found to be selective for all tested compounds. Calibration was satisfactory from 0.5-100 ng/mL, and from 5.0-500 ng/mL. for HU-210, CP 47,497 and the CP 47,497 C-8 homolog, respectively. The extraction efficiencies ranged from 30-101% and the matrix effects from 67-112%. Accuracy data were within the acceptance interval of ±15% (±20% at the lower limit of quantification) of the nominal values for all drugs.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Calibration
  • Cannabinoids / blood*
  • Cannabinoids / chemistry
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / blood
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / chemistry
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Designer Drugs / analysis*
  • Designer Drugs / chemistry
  • Forensic Toxicology / methods
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / blood*
  • Illicit Drugs / chemistry
  • International Agencies
  • Limit of Detection
  • Microchemistry / methods
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / agonists
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / agonists
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Substance Abuse Detection* / standards
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Cannabinoids
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Designer Drugs
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2