University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
JournalSpectroscopy
Journal publication date2014
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2014

Abstract

Novel psychoactive substance (NPS) abuse has been increasing over the last few years especially as these products are easily available via the Internet. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) reported the emergence of 170 novel substances since 1997 of which 41 appeared in 2010. These products have been emerging mostly as analogues or precursors of well-known drugs of abuse such as amfetamine to surpass regulations. Besides concern over their abuse potential, these products may not contain what is declared on their ‘Label Claim’. In fact, they have been shown to contain a mixture of drugs and excipients, which may be toxic or even lethal. The reported illness and death cases due to the use of NPS products have been increasing over the last year. This stimulates the need for sensitive analytical techniques to identify these new substances as well as their associated adulterants. Hyphenated mass spectrometric techniques such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) offer this advantage. They can both separate as well as suggest the chemical identity of the individual constituents. Analysis of NPS products using these techniques showed that more than 60% contained the substance claimed on the label as well as other drugs. In addition, more than 25% of the NPS products were adulterated with an anaesthetic or caffeine. Consequently, this could have an un-predictive pharmacological effect if the activity is not due to one known substance as stated on the ‘Label Claim’, but a cocktail of substances.

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