Simultaneous quantification of 28 synthetic cathinones and metabolites in urine by liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry.Anal Bioanal Chem. 2013 Nov; 405(29):9437-48.AB
Synthetic cathinones are novel stimulants derived from cathinone, with amphetamines or cocaine-like effects, often labeled "not for human consumption" and considered "legal highs". Emergence of these new designer drugs complicate interpretation of forensic and clinical cases, with introduction of many new analogs designed to circumvent legislation and vary effects and potencies. We developed a method for the simultaneous quantification of 28 synthetic cathinones, including four metabolites, in urine by liquid chromatography coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS). These cathinones include cathinone, methcathinone, and synthetic cathinones position-3'-substituted, N-alkyl-substituted, ring-substituted, methylenedioxy-substituted, and pyrrolidinyl-substituted. One mL phosphate buffer pH 6 and 25 μL IStd solution were combined with 0.25 mL urine, and subjected to solid phase cation exchange extraction (SOLA SCX). The chromatographic reverse-phase separation was achieved with a gradient mobile phase of 0.1 % formic acid in water and in acetonitrile in 20 min. We employed a Q Exactive high resolution mass spectrometer, with compounds identified and quantified by target-MSMS experiments. The assay was linear from 0.5-1 to 100 μg/L, with limits of detection of 0.25-1 μg/L. Imprecision (n = 20) was <15.9 % and accuracy (n = 20) 85.2-118.1 %. Extraction efficiency was 78.9-116.7 % (CV 1.4-16.7 %, n = 5), process efficiency 57.7-104.9 %, and matrix effects from -29.5 % to 1.5 % (CV 1.9-13.1 %, n = 10). Most synthetic cathinones were stable at 4 °C for 72 h (n = 27) and after 3 freeze-thaw cycles (n = 26), but many (n = 19) were not stable at room temperature for 24 h (losses up to -67.6 %). The method was applied to authentic urine specimens from synthetic cathinone users. This method provides a comprehensive confirmation method for 28 synthetic cathinones in urine, with good selectivity and specificity.