Rapid analysis of ecstasy and related phenethylamines in seized tablets by Raman spectroscopy
Raman spectroscopy with far-red excitation has been used to study seized, tableted samples of MDMA (N-methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine) and related compounds (MDA, MDEA, MBDB, 2C-B and amphetamine sulfate), as well as pure standards of these drugs. We have found that by using far-red (785 nm) excitation the level of fluorescence background even in untreated seized samples is sufficiently low that there is little difficulty in obtaining good quality data with moderate 2 min data accumulation times. The spectra can be used to distinguish between even chemically-similar substances, such as the geometrical isomers MDEA and MBDB, and between different polymorphic/hydrated forms of the same drug. Moreover, these differences can be found even in directly recorded spectra of seized samples which have been bulked with other materials, giving a rapid and non-destructive method for drug identification. The spectra can be processed to give unambiguous identification of both drug and excipients (even when more than one compound has been used as the bulking agent) and the relative intensities of drug and excipient bands can be used for quantitative or at least semi-quantitative analysis. Finally, the simple nature of the measurements lends itself to automatic sample handling so that sample throughputs of 20 samples per hour can be achieved with no real difficulty.