Forensic Chemical Analysis of Synthetic Cathinones Using Portable Mass Spectrometric Instrumentation

Caitlin Cain


Forensic laboratories face issues with large backlogs on evidence needing to be analyzed due to two reasons: budgeting issues and the emergence of designer drugs.  Currently, forensic laboratory directors cite that there is a shortage of scientists to deal with the yearly increase in caseloads.  Additionally, designer drugs like synthetic cathinones, commonly known as “bath salts,” have increased the backlog due to changing chemical compositions and misidentification as other compounds.  Therefore, the use of a portable mass spectrometer for on-site forensic chemical analysis of synthetic cathinones would reduce the backlog of suspected controlled substances in forensic chemistry laboratories.  A comparison of research on gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), typically used in forensic laboratories, and ambient mass spectrometry, an upcoming method, was conducted to determine which technique would be more suitable for on-site analysis of synthetic cathinones.  Due to the spectral fragmentation caused when analyzing synthetic cathinones with GC-MS, forensic scientists should consider using ambient ionization mass spectrometry for successful identification of evidence samples.  Ambient ionization mass spectrometry techniques, especially desorption electrospray ionization (DESI-MS) and direct analysis in real time (DART-MS), are also portable because of the minimum sample preparation needed and enhancement of mass spectral signals.  Through use of portable ambient ionization mass spectrometry techniques, synthetic cathinones would be accurately identified in the field, reducing the strain of the backlog in forensic laboratories.


Synthetic Cathinones; Ambient Ionization; DESI-MS; DART-MS; GC-MS; Portable; Forensic Backlog; Designer Drugs

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.