Analysis of drugs of abuse by online SPE-LC high resolution mass spectrometry: communal assessment of consumption

Sci Total Environ. 2015 Apr 1;511:319-30. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.12.043. Epub 2014 Dec 29.


An online SPE-LC-HRMS method was developed to monitor the consumption of 18 drugs of abuse (DOAs) including amphetamines, opioids, cocainics, cannabinoids, lysergics, and their corresponding metabolites in a well characterized college campus setting via wastewater analysis. Filtered and diluted (10×) sewage water samples (5 mL inj.) were automatically pre-concentrated and analyzed in 15 min using a Thermo EQuan MAX online SPE system equipped with a HyperSep™ Retain PEP (20×2.1 mm×12 μm) SPE column and a Hypersil Gold™ aQ (150×2.1 mm×3 μm) analytical column. A Q Exactive™ Hybrid Quadrupole-Orbitrap HRMS was used in full scan mode (R=140,000) for positive identification, and quantitation of target compounds. Method detection limits for all analytes ranged between 0.6 and 1.7 ng/L in sewage. A total of 14 DOAs were detected from two different locations (dorms and main college campus) within a one-year period. Most frequently detected drugs throughout the entire study were amphetamine (>96%) and THC's metabolite 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ-9-THC (>100%) with maximum concentrations of 5956 and 2413 ng/L respectively. Daily doses per 1000 people were determined in order to assess consumption of THC, amphetamine, heroin and cocaine, in both dorms and main campus.

Keywords: College campus; High resolution mass spectrometry; Illicit drugs; Online-SPE; Sewage influents.

MeSH terms

  • Illicit Drugs / analysis*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Sewage / chemistry
  • Waste Water / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Sewage
  • Waste Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical