Forensic electrochemistry applied to the sensing of new psychoactive substances: electroanalytical sensing of synthetic cathinones and analytical validation in the quantification of seized street samples.Anal Chem. 2014 Oct 07; 86(19):9985-92.AC
The electrochemical sensing of new psychoactive substance(s) (NPSs), synthetic cathinone derivatives also termed "legal highs", are explored with the use of metallic modified screen-printed electrochemical sensors (SPES). It is found that no significant electrochemical enhancement is evident with the use of either in situ bismuth or mercury film modified SPES compared to the bare underlying electrode substrate. In fact, the direct electrochemical reduction of the cathinone derivatives mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone; 4-MMC) and 4'-methyl-N-ethylcathinone (4-methylethcathinone; 4-MEC) is found to be possible for the first time, without heavy metal catalysis, giving rise to useful voltammetric electroanalytical signatures in model aqueous buffer solutions. This novel electroanalytical methodology is validated toward the determination of cathinone derivatives (4-MMC and 4-MEC) in three seized street samples that are independently analyzed with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) wherein excellent agreement between the two analytical protocols is found. Such an approach provides a validated laboratory tool for the quantification of synthetic cathinone derivatives and holds potential for the basis of a portable analytical sensor for the determination of synthetic cathinone derivatives in seized street samples.