Identification of adrafinil and its main metabolite modafinil in human hair. Self-administration study and interpretation of an authentic case

Forensic Sci Res. 2020 Jan 29;5(4):322-326. doi: 10.1080/20961790.2019.1704482.


For several years, the misuse of stimulant substances is increasingly observed both in the field of sport, to improve the functions of the body and therefore to be more performant, and also by non-athletes to make life more tolerable on a daily basis. Adrafinil, 2-((diphenylmethyl)sulfinyl)-N-hydroxyacetamide, is a drug designed for the treatment of narcolepsy by promoting an awakened state, and to treat alertness and neurological symptoms in the elderly. It is primarily metabolized in vivo to an active form, i.e. modafinil, 2-((diphenylmethyl)sulfinyl)acetamide. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned these two drugs in sports in 2004. The authors report an authentic case involving adrafinil and modafinil. The laboratory was requested to test for adrafinil in a hair strand collected from a woman found in possession of vials of adrafinil and suspected of trafficking. A specific method was developed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Unlike modafinil (varying from 6.8 to 13.9 ng/mg), adrafinil was not identified in the strand. The interpretation of the results was difficult because this is the first case describing human hair analysis. In order to be able to interpret the results, a self-administration study was conducted after an oral administration to a volunteer (200 mg) whose beard hair was collected 10 days after administration. The analysis of this specimen highlighted the presence of adrafinil at 0.8 ng/mg and modafinil at 0.5 ng/mg. These results demonstrate the dual identification of both compounds after a single consumption, even after administration of a low dose. According to these results, the analysis of the hair strand from the authentic case does not match with a consumption of adrafinil, in accordance with abuse of modafinil alone. Intelligence considered that this was a trafficking case of adrafinil, with no self-consumption.

Keywords: Forensic sciences; UPLC-MS/MS; adrafinil; forensic toxicology; human hair; modafinil; stimulants.