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Structural Characterization of Emerging Synthetic Drugs

NCJ Number
Glen P. Jackson; C. Randall Clark
Date Published
20 pages

The authors of this report present a summary of their research project that had two main aims, which were to understand the mechanisms of fragmentation of odd-electron and even-electron cathonine analogs and fentanyl analogs, and each aim had four major goals or objectives; they discuss the outcomes for both major goals; and provide details of the activities and accomplishments that resulted from the research, a list of participating researchers and institutions, and other dissemination activities and publications.


This report describes a project with the goal of answering a defined research need of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (NIST OSAC), subcommittee on Seized Drugs, which was to develop an interpretation strategy that allows consistent conclusions to be drawn from spectrometric data, and to provide guidance to the forensic community about how to extend such knowledge to the identification of cathinone, fentanyl, and current and future analogs. The research presented in this document contributes to the criminal justice system and forensic science practitioners by exploring and developing the scientific community’s understanding of the origins of mass spectral fragmentation rules of emerging synthetic drugs, and by explaining trends, mechanisms, and interpretation strategies in various presentations, workshops, and publications. Research results answered questions about which fragment ions are characteristic for a chosen subset of analogs of emerging synthetic drugs; the degree to which quantitative differences in ion abundances between two isomers can be differentiated; the mechanisms that form diagnostic ions; and the ways in which instrument conditions affect the generation of diagnostic ions.