Electrochemical analysis of speedball-like polydrug samples

Analyst. 2020 Sep 14;145(18):6091-6096. doi: 10.1039/d0an01097a.


Increasing global production, trafficking and consumption of drugs of abuse is an emerging threat to people's health and safety. Electrochemical approaches have been proved to be useful for on-site analysis of drugs of abuse. However, less attention has been focused on the analysis of polydrug samples, even though these samples pose severe health concerns, especially when stimulants and depressants are combined, as is the case of speedball, a mixture of cocaine and heroin. In this work, we provide solutions for the selective detection of cocaine (stimulant) in polydrug samples adulterated with heroin and codeine (depressants). The presence of either one of these compounds in cocaine street samples leads to an overlap with the cocaine signal in square-wave voltammetry measurements at unmodified carbon screen-printed electrodes, leading to inconclusive screening results in the field. The provided solutions to this problem consist of two parallel approaches: (i) cathodic pretreatment of the carbon screen-printed electrode surface prior to measurement under both alkaline and neutral conditions and (ii) electropolymerization of orthophenylenediamine on graphene modified carbon screen-printed electrodes prior to measurement under neutral conditions. Both strategies allow simultaneous detection of cocaine and heroin in speedball samples as well as simultaneous detection of cocaine and codeine. Implementing these strategies in portable devices holds great potential for significantly improved accuracy of on-site cocaine screening in polydrug samples.

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System Stimulants*
  • Cocaine*
  • Codeine
  • Electrochemical Techniques
  • Electrodes
  • Heroin
  • Humans


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Codeine