The analytical investigation of synthetic street drugs containing cathinone analogs

Amanda M. Leffler, Philip B. Smith, Adriana de Armas, Frank L. Dorman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Synthetic drugs, often marketed as "legal highs," are entering the drug market at an accelerated pace. Analysis of these "designer drugs" and the determination of their composition are necessary in order to aid law enforcement and also to understand what potential users may be subjected to. Ten synthetic cathinones were identified in 14 separate street samples analyzed utilizing a variety of techniques, including gas chromatography with mass spectrometric detection (GC-MS) and flame ionization (GC-FID). Additionally, preparatory high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) for the fractionation of multi-component samples and the use of direct infusion tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) was necessary to identify compounds which were not available as reference materials. These cathinones include 3,4-methylenedioxy pyrovalerone (MDPV), 3,4-methylenedioxy-α-pyrrolidinobutiophenone (MDPBP), 4-fluoromethcathinone (4-FMC), butylone, mephedrone, naphyrone, 4-methylethcathinone (4-MEC), ethcathinone, α-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (α-PVP), and 3-methyl-α-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (3-MPPP). Concentrations of the active compounds varied between samples. For example, MDPV was determined to be the most common cathinone. It was found in five of the 14 samples and ranged from 11% to 73% between samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-56
Number of pages7
JournalForensic science international
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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