Identification of AB-FUBINACA metabolites in authentic urine samples suitable as urinary markers of drug intake using liquid chromatography quadrupole tandem time of flight mass spectrometry

Drug Test Anal. 2016 Sep;8(9):950-6. doi: 10.1002/dta.1896. Epub 2015 Nov 11.


Synthetic cannabinoids are a group of psychoactive drugs presently widespread among drug users in Europe. Analytical methods to measure these compounds in urine are in demand as urine is a preferred matrix for drug testing. For most synthetic cannabinoids, the parent compounds are rarely detected in urine. Therefore urinary metabolites are needed as markers of drug intake. AB-FUBINACA was one of the top three synthetic cannabinoids most frequently found in seizures and toxicological drug screening in Sweden (2013-2014). Drug abuse is also reported from several other countries such as the USA and Japan. In this study, 28 authentic case samples were used to identify urinary markers of AB-FUBINACA intake using liquid chromatography quadrupole tandem time of flight mass spectrometry and human liver microsomes. Three metabolites suitable as markers of drug intake were identified and at least two of them were detected in all but one case. In total, 15 urinary metabolites of AB-FUBINACA were reported, including hydrolxylations on the indazole ring and the amino-oxobutane moiety, dealkylations and hydrolysis of the primary amide. No modifications on the fluorobenzyl side-chain were observed. The parent compound was detected in 54% of the case samples. Also, after three hours of incubation with human liver microsomes, 77% of the signal from the parent compound remained. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: LC-MS/MS; Spice; drugs of abuse; human liver microsomes; metabolites; new psychoactive substances; synthetic cannabinoids; urine.

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids / analysis
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Cannabinoids / urine*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Humans
  • Indazoles / analysis
  • Indazoles / metabolism*
  • Indazoles / urine*
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Psychotropic Drugs / analysis
  • Psychotropic Drugs / metabolism*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / urine*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods


  • Cannabinoids
  • Indazoles
  • Psychotropic Drugs