What about the herb? A new metabolomics approach for synthetic cannabinoid drug testing
Synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) are consumed as legal alternative to cannabis and often allow passing drug-screening tests. Their rapid transience on the drug scene, combined with their mostly unknown metabolic profiles, creates a scenario with constantly moving analytical targets, making their monitoring and identification challenging. The development of fast screening strategies for SCs, not directly focused on their chemical structure, as an alternative to the commonly applied target acquisition methods, would be highly appreciated in forensic and public health laboratories. An innovative untargeted metabolomics approach, focused on herbal components commonly used for ‘spice’ products, was applied. Saliva samples of healthy volunteers were collected at pre-dose and after smoking herbal components and analysed by high-resolution mass spectrometry. The data obtained, combined with appropriate statistical analysis, allowed to highlight and elucidate two markers (scopoletin and N,N-bis(2-hydroxyethyl)dodecylamine), which ratio permitted to differentiate herbal smokers from non-smokers. The proposed strategy will allow discriminating potential positives, on the basis of the analysis of two markers identified in the herbal blends. This work is presented as a step forward in SC drug testing, promoting a smart first-line screening approach, which will allow reducing the number of samples to be further investigated by more sophisticated HRMS methods.
KeywordsSpice Herbal components Synthetic cannabinoids Saliva biomarkers Metabolomics High-resolution mass spectrometry
The authors would like to thank CSM, RGS and RBvL for their collaboration in providing saliva samples.
Lubertus Bijlsma acknowledges NPS-Euronet (HOME/2014/JDRUG/AG/DRUG/7086), co-funded by the European Union, for his post-doctoral fellowship. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. The authors acknowledge the financial support of Generalitat Valenciana (Prometeo II 2014/023) and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Project ref. CTQ2015-65603).
Compliance with ethical standards
The study was approved by the ethics committee (la Comisión Deontológica) of the University Jaume I and was conducted in accordance with the ethical standards, considering the Declaration of Helsinki. The healthy volunteers signed an informed consent.
Declaration on conflict of interests
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
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