Hair Analysis for the emerging new drugs: Tramadol and Mephedrone

James Nutt, Kim Bagley, Lolita Tsanaclis, John Wicks
Cansford Laboratories Ltd. & Cansford Associated Ltd, Cardiff, UK.Tel: 029 2068 2031
Paper presented at the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT), Toronto, Canada, June 2012.

Although extensive information on detection of drugs in hair is available for many drugs, previous emphasis has been on the most common drugs with less focus on misuse of new emerging psychoactive compounds, such as tramadol and mephedrone. Tramadol is an analgesic opioid available on prescription, used to treat moderate to severe pain. Mephedrone is a designer stimulant, and has been outlawed in the UK since 2010. Up to now only a few papers have reported the detection of tramadol and mephedrone in hair samples.

Hair samples (N=1205) were sectioned, washed, submitted to alkaline digestion and purification using solid-phase extraction and analysed by LC-MS/MS in ESI positive ion with multiple reaction monitoring.

Calibration curves for all analytes were from 0.1 to 2.5 ng/mg with cut-offs at 0.2 ng/mg. The intra-day precision for all analytes was less then 8% and inter-day precision less then 10% for mid and high levels and 23-35% at cut-off levels.

Tramadol was detected in 107 samples, (8.8%; range: 0.3-57.1ng/mg; median: 1.3ng/mg and mean: 5.6ng/mg) and its main metabolite, desmethyltramadol was detected in 52 samples (range 0.2-8.1ng/mg, median=0.7ng/mg and mean=1.3 ng/mg). Use of tramadol was declared in 46 cases.

Mephedrone was detected in 39 samples (3.2%; range: 0.2 to 36.6 ng/mg; median: 0.8ng/mg and mean: 3.5ng/mg).

The results show that tramadol use and misuse is more common in comparison to mephedrone and confirm the usefulness of hair analysis as an aid in monitoring use of these drugs over a longer period of time.

Posted in Scientific Presentations