Impurity profiling of illicit drugs

  • Majdah Raji M. Alotaibi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The pharmaceutical analysis of illicit drugs and the associated impurity profilingcan contribute to a harm reduction approach. Impurities in illicit drugs represent a complex problem that requires detailed and reproducible analysis, in part because cutting agents are not often reported by the forensic science community. This research project is focused on characterising Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and determining their purity/impurity (adulteration) employing a wide range of spectroscopic and chromatographic methods, mainly NMR spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry. Another aim is to develop a routine, rapid, and quantitative analytical protocol to identify illicit drugs and their impurities (cutting agents) in seized street samples. These two major aims were achieved.A comprehensive, but critical review of the current literature is provided withrespect to the analytical chemistry aspects of illicit drugs and especially their cutting agents. This literature review has a focus on the global concern arising from the current and continuing emergence of NPS and their diverse public health effects. Evidence is provided of illegal drugs, mainly so-called “legal highs” (NPS), from detailed analysis of the contents of amnesty bins and their adulterants provided by the Police from a Bristol night club and from the 2013 Glastonbury music festival, besides other samples they had seized. An accurate chemical assignment of flephedrone regioisomers is made and compared withmephedrone. Impurity profiling of street mephedrone and ketamine samples and their adulterants is presented. A possible link between mephedrone samples is investigated by applying PCA and HCA statistical methods to the 1H NMR data.
Date of Award26 Apr 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsUniversity of Tabuk
SupervisorIan Blagbrough (Supervisor) & Stephen Husbands (Supervisor)

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