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Designer Amphetamines in Forensic Toxicology Casework

NCJ Number
Sarah Kerrigan Ph.D.
Date Published
July 2012
90 pages

This final report presents the results of a study to evaluate limitations in existing methodology for detecting designer amphetamines in toxicology screenings and to develop new procedures for detecting these drugs.


Existing methods used in forensic toxicology laboratories are currently unable to readily detect the newer forms of designer amphetamines being seized by law enforcement. In this study, 11 psychedelic amphetamines (2C, 2C-T, and DO series) were used to determine the cross-reactivity of 9 commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). The analysis found that the 9 ELISAs exhibited some cross-reactivity towards one of the drugs, 4-methylthioamphetamine (4-MTA), while cross-reactivity towards the remaining 10 drugs was extremely low, less than 0.4 percent. This finding suggests the detection of any of these 11 drugs would be extremely unlikely in standard forensic toxicology screenings. The study also developed and tested a new procedure for detecting the new designer drugs. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and solid phase extraction (SPE) were used in a procedure that involved the simultaneous detection of the 11 psychedelic amphetamines. The study also tested the ability of liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) to be used for the simultaneous detection of these drugs. The findings from the study indicate that using both GC/MS and LC/MS/MS improves the ability to detect forensically significant concentrations of these types of drugs in blood and urine samples. Study limitations are discussed. Tables, figures, references