Rapid screening of 35 new psychoactive substances by ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) and direct analysis in real time (DART) coupled to quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (QTOF-MS)

Drug Test Anal. 2015 Oct;7(10):884-93. doi: 10.1002/dta.1783. Epub 2015 Mar 18.


The recent propagation of new psychoactive substances (NPS) has led to the development of new techniques for the rapid characterization of controlled substances in this category. A commercial bench-top ion mobility spectrometer (IMS) with a (63) Ni ionization source and a direct analysis in real time (DART) coupled to quadrupole time-of-flight (QTOF) were used for the rapid characterization of 35 NPS. The advantages of these techniques are fast response, ease of operation, and minimal sample preparation. The characteristic reduced mobilities of each substance are reported as are the mass spectra of the 35 compounds. The acquired product ion scan mass spectra were also compared to a library database constructed by QTOF with a electrospray ionization (ESI) source and showed a consistent relative abundance for each peak over time. A total of four seized drug samples provided by the local forensic laboratory were analyzed in order to demonstrate the utility of this approach. The results of this study suggest that both IMS and DART-QTOF are promising alternatives for the rapid screening and characterization of these new psychoactive substances.

Keywords: direct analysis in real time (DART); ion mobility spectrometry; new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Limit of Detection
  • Mass Spectrometry / economics
  • Mass Spectrometry / instrumentation
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / analysis*
  • Time Factors


  • Psychotropic Drugs