Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 2, 2014
Previous Article Next Article

Forensic electrochemistry: the electroanalytical sensing of synthetic cathinone-derivatives and their accompanying adulterants in “legal high” products

Author affiliations

Abstract

The production and abuse of new psychoactive substances, known as “legal highs” which mimic traditional drugs of abuse is becoming a global epidemic. Traditional analytical methodologies exist which can provide confirmatory analysis but there is a requirement for an on-the-spot analytical screening tool that could be used to determine whether a substance, or sample matrix contains such legal, or formally “legal highs”. In this paper the electrochemical sensing of (±)-methcathinone and related compounds at a range of commercially available electrode substrates is explored. We demonstrate for the first time that this class of “legal highs” are electrochemically active providing a novel sensing protocol based upon their electrochemical oxidation. Screen-printed graphite sensing platforms are favoured due to their proven ability to be mass-produced providing large numbers of reliable and reproducible electrode sensing platforms that preclude the requirement of surface pre-treatment such as mechanical polishing as is the case in the use of solid/re-usable electrode substrates. Additionally they hold potential to be used on-site potentially being the basis of an on-site legal high screening device. Consequently the electroanalytical sensing of (±)-methcathinone (3a), (±)-4′-methylmethcathinone [3b, 4-MMC, (±)-mephedrone] and (±)-4′-methyl-N-ethylcathinone (3c, 4-MEC) is explored using screen-printed sensing platforms with the effect of pH explored upon the analytical response with their analytical efficiency evaluated towards the target legal highs. Interesting at pH values below 6 the voltammetric response quantitatively changes from that of an electrochemically irreversible response to that of a quasi-reversible signature which can be used analytically. It is demonstrated for the first time that the electroanalytical sensing of (±)-methcathinone (3a), (±)-mephedrone (3b) and 4-MEC (3c) are possible with accessible linear ranges found to correspond to 16–200 μg mL−1 for 3a (at pH 12) and 16–350 μg mL−1 for both 3b and 3c in pH 2, with limits of detection (3σ) found to correspond to 44.5, 39.8 and 84.2 μg mL−1 respectively. Additionally adulterants that are commonly incorporated into cathinone legal highs are electrochemically explored at both pH 2 and 12.

Graphical abstract: Forensic electrochemistry: the electroanalytical sensing of synthetic cathinone-derivatives and their accompanying adulterants in “legal high” products

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Publication details

The article was received on 22 Oct 2013, accepted on 21 Nov 2013 and first published on 29 Nov 2013


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C3AN01985C
Analyst, 2014,139, 389-400

  •   Request permissions

    Forensic electrochemistry: the electroanalytical sensing of synthetic cathinone-derivatives and their accompanying adulterants in “legal high” products

    J. P. Smith, J. P. Metters, C. Irving, O. B. Sutcliffe and C. E. Banks, Analyst, 2014, 139, 389
    DOI: 10.1039/C3AN01985C

Search articles by author

Spotlight

Advertisements