Heather Whitehead and Kathleen Hayes published in Forensic Chemistry

Author: Marya Lieberman

This paper shares a tandem mass spectroscopy method for quantitative analysis of 22 drugs and drug metabolites. The samples were harvested from used idPADs;  we used this method, along with fentanyl and benzo test strips, to analyze 124 samples of illicit drugs collected from the Chicago area in 2021-2022.  

Heather D. Whitehead, Kathleen L. Hayes, James A. Swartz, Elizabeth Prete, Lisa Robison-Taylor, Mary Ellen Mackesy-Amiti, Antonio D. Jimenez, Marya Lieberman, "Validated method for the analysis of 22 illicit drugs and their metabolites via liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) in illicit drug samples collected in Chicago, IL"
Forensic Chemistry, 2023, 100475, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forc.2023.100475.

Abstract: Drug checking services are being utilized worldwide to provide people who use drugs information on the composition and contents of their drugs as a tool for harm reduction and accidental overdose prevention. Existing drug checking services use a variety of techniques including immunoassay strips and spectroscopic techniques like FTIR and Raman. Few services utilize LC-MS based methods for primary or secondary analysis and few methods exist for direct analysis of illicit drugs. To address this, an LC-MS/MS method was developed for 22 illicit drugs and cutting agents using LC-MS/MS with application to 124 illicit drug samples that were collected from Chicago, IL. Samples were also analyzed using fentanyl and benzodiazepine immunoassay test strips. Fentanyl test strips gave a positive result for 86% of samples with only one sample showing a positive result on a benzodiazepine test strip. LC-MS/MS analysis of samples show that opioids were the most commonly quantified in 96% of samples, followed by stimulants at 12% and benzodiazepines at 1%. Fentanyl was measured in 91% of samples, co-occurring with heroin in 58% of opioid-containing samples. A comparison of the gold-standard LC-MS/MS results to fentanyl test strips shows a high level of accuracy for the fentanyl test strips, with just 5% of samples being classified as false negatives and no false positives. These results demonstrate the strengths and benefits of LC-MS/MS when incorporated as a secondary analysis tool for drug checking.