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Application of a Pyroprobe to Simulate Smoking and Metabolic Degradation of Abused Drugs Through Analysis Pyrolysis

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 52 Issue: 2 Dated: March 2007 Pages: 473-478
Date Published
March 2007
6 pages

In order to simulate the smoking and subsequent metabolic degradation of abused drugs, this project performed the pyrolysis (a process that decomposes a chemical compound by extreme heat) of cocaine and methamphetamine by using a pyroprobe coupled with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS).


The experiment demonstrated the ability of a pyroprobe to produce pyrolytic products in mixtures that mirrored those found in biological fluids. There were no unique pyrolytic products found from interactions between cocaine and methamphetamine. There were no detectable pyrolytic products for cocaine when mixed with lidocaine or benzocaine. The pyrolytic products produced from cocaine and methamphetamine dissolved in synthetic urine was compared with organic solvents. The pyrolytic products obtained in synthetic urine were more abundant than in methanol or ethanol. The method thus has potential for a screening method and a rapid process for predicting possible metabolic products in forensic toxicology. Future research may show that the presence of oxygen and water during thermal degradation may provide better conditions for producing the unseen metabolites. The ability to simulate smoking and metabolism by pyrolysis will be beneficial to forensic toxicologists and the future application of this method to other abused drugs. The paper presents a detailed description of materials used, instrumentation and conditions, drug sample preparation, and cutting agent/drug mixture control. 4 tables, 6 figures, and 18 references

Date Published: March 1, 2007