Analysis of parent synthetic cannabinoids in blood and urinary metabolites by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry

Jessica L. Knittel, Justin M. Holler, Jeffrey D. Chmiel, Shawn P. Vorce, Joseph Magluilo, Barry Levine, Gerardo Ramos, Thomas Z. Bosy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Synthetic cannabinoids emerged on the designer drug market in recent years due to their ability to produce cannabis-like effects without the risk of detection by traditional drug testing techniques such as immunoassay and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. As government agencies work to schedule existing synthetic cannabinoids, new, unregulated and structurally diverse compounds continue to be developed and sold. Synthetic cannabinoids undergo extensive metabolic conversion. Consequently, both blood and urine specimens may play an important role in the forensic analysis of synthetic cannabinoids. It has been observed that structurally similar synthetic cannabinoids follow common metabolic pathways, which often produce metabolites with similar metabolic transformations. Presented are two validated quantitative methods for extracting and identifying 15 parent synthetic cannabinoids in blood, 17 synthetic cannabinoid metabolites in urine and the qualitative identification of 2 additional parent compounds. The linear range for most synthetic cannabinoid compounds monitored was 0.1-10 ng/mL with the limit of detection between 0.01 and 0.5 ng/mL. Selectivity, specificity, accuracy, precision, recovery and matrix effectwere also examined and determined to be acceptable for each compound. The validated methods were used to analyze a compilation of synthetic cannabinoid investigative cases where both blood and urine specimens were submitted. The study suggests a strong correlation between the metabolites detected in urine and the parent compounds found in blood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberbkv137
Pages (from-to)173-186
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Analytical Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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