Mass Spec Tracks Down Designer Drugs | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 26 | p. 38 | Concentrates
Issue Date: June 25, 2012

Mass Spec Tracks Down Designer Drugs

Researchers use a single test to detect multiple related, abused cannabinoid drugs found in commercial products
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Analytical SCENE
Keywords: designer drugs, mass defect filtering, synthetic cannabinoids, JWH-018
[+]Enlarge
Researchers used the banned cannabinoid JWH-018 (mass 341.1780 Da) to detect the similar unregulated compound AM-2201 (mass 359.1685 Da) by noting the similarity in their fractional masses—0.1780 versus 0.1685.
Molecular structures of two synthetic cannabinoids, JWH-018 and AM-2201.
 
Researchers used the banned cannabinoid JWH-018 (mass 341.1780 Da) to detect the similar unregulated compound AM-2201 (mass 359.1685 Da) by noting the similarity in their fractional masses—0.1780 versus 0.1685.

Drug tests typically spot banned substances one at a time using a spectroscopic signature of the substance. Clever chemists in turn design new drugs with minor chemical modifications to evade such detection. A mass spectrometry technique can now screen for many variations all at once (Anal. Chem., DOI: 10.1021/ac300509h). “Herbal incense” products typically contain psychoactive synthetic cannabinoids, says Megan Grabenauer of RTI International. To develop a general detection method, Grabenauer borrowed a technique from metabolomics called mass defect filtering, which can distinguish among related compounds. The mass defect, or fractional mass, is less than 1 dalton and is the part of a substance’s molecular mass that lies to the right of the decimal point. This fraction changes little, even when functional groups are added or subtracted and the number on the left of the decimal changes significantly. The fractional mass of JWH-018, a banned synthetic cannabinoid, is 0.18 Da. The researchers checked the mass spectra of 32 locally purchased herbal mixtures with names such as “Mr. Nice Guy” and “Hot Hawaiian” for compounds with fractional masses between 0.13 and 0.23 Da. They then sampled those compounds and compared the masses of the fragments with those of JWH-018 and other synthetic cannabinoid standards. From these data, the researchers identified at least one synthetic cannabinoid in each herbal mixture. In addition to JWH-018, they found one other illegal cannabinoid and seven that are not regulated.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society

Leave A Comment

*Required to comment