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Portable near infrared spectroscopy for the isomeric differentiation of new psychoactive substances



Rapid and efficient identification of the precise isomeric form of new psychoactive substances (NPS) by forensic casework laboratories is a relevant challenge in the forensic field. Differences in legal status occur for ring-isomeric species of the same class, thus leading to different penalties and judicial control. Portable systems such as near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy recently emerged as suitable techniques for the on-scene identification of common drugs of abuse such as cocaine, MDMA and amphetamine. This way, the overall forensic process becomes more efficient as relevant information on substance identity becomes available directly at the scene of crime. Currently, no NIR-based applications exist for the rapid, on-scene detection of NPS isomers. Herein, we present the differentiation of cathinone and phenethylamine-type NPS analogues based on their NIR spectrum recorded in 2 seconds on a portable 1350 – 2600 nm spectrometer. A prior developed data analysis model was found suitable for the identification of the methylmethcathinone (MMC) isomers 2-MMC, 3-MMC and 4-MMC. In 51 mixtures and 22 seized casework samples, the correct isomeric form was detected in all cases except for a few mixtures with an active ingredient content of 10 wt%. These results show the feasibility of on-site NPS detection as presumptive test performed directly at the scene of crime with a small size NIR-spectrometer. Additionally, in the illicit drug analysis laboratory the combination of NIR and GC–MS analysis might be suitable for robust identification of NPS isomers and analogues.

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Date of Publication: 
September 23, 2022
Ruben F. Kranenburg / Henk/Jan Ramaker / Arian C. van Asten
Dutch National Police, University of Amsterdam / TIPb / Co van Ledden Hulsebosch Center (CLHC)
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