Detection of coca alkaloids in oral fluid from coca leaf (tea) consumers: using solid phase extraction to improve validation parameters and widen the detection window
Hygrine and cuscohygrine, two coca leaf alkaloids, have been previously proposed as markers to differentiate legal and illegal cocaine consumption. This is a very common problem in some countries of South America, where the consumption of coca leaves has a long tradition. Analytical methods focusing on the assessment of coca leaf alkaloids, such as cuscohygrine, hygrine, tropacocaine and t-cinnamoylcocaine, in oral fluid are virtually non-existent in forensic toxicology laboratories worldwide due to their lack of application. However, the problem of differentiating legal and illegal cocaine use in criminal justice, DUID (drug-impaired driving) and WDT (workplace drug testing) programs is growing. Therefore, researchers are obliged to develop methods to measure coca leaf alkaloids (cuscohygrine, hygrine and t-cinnamoylcocaine) in biological matrices for further validation for routine analyses in forensic toxicology laboratories. This work aims to optimize a previously published separation method by protein precipitation in oral fluid by using solid-phase extraction (SPE) coupled with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) operating in multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mode. The use of SPE allowed the matrix effect and the background to be reduced in the chromatograms due to the obtained cleaner extracts. Consequently, improved detection and quantification limits were reached. Findings showed that the detection windows for coca leaf alkaloids were longer than three hours in real oral fluid samples from volunteers who drank a cup of coca tea. These detection windows are quite higher than those previously obtained when using the method based on separation by protein precipitation.