Detection and quantitation of 17 synthetic cannabinoids in human whole blood using LC-MS/MS following supported liquid extraction
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Synthetic cannabinoids have become a growing concern in society. The extensive list of synthetic cannabinoids and the abuse rate has drawn the attention by government agencies throughout the world. These synthetic cannabinoids can adopt a number of different structures, while still acting on endogenous cannabinoid (CB1 and CB2) receptors. In addition, due to structural modifications of these synthetic cannabinoids, many of these compounds can bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors with greater affinity causing severe adverse and life-threatening effects. Because of their structural dissimilarity to the phytocannabinoid Δ9-THC, combating the rapid growth and emergence of synthetic cannabinoids with conventional THC-based methods has become an ongoing struggle. The purpose of this research was to develop and validate a robust and reliable method to accurately identify and quantify 17 synthetic cannabinoids in human whole blood using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). The method was validated in accordance to SWGTOX guidelines for quantitative analysis using the following analytes: 4-cyano-CUMYL-BUTINACA, 5F-3,5-ABPFUPPYCA, 5F-ADB-PINACA, 5F- PY-PINACA, ADB-PINACA, APP-PICA, CUMYL-THPINACA, EMB-FUNICACA, JWH-250, MDMB-FUBICA, MEP-CHMICA, MO-CHMINACA, NM2201, PB-22, RCS-8, UR144, and XLR11. With this developed method, total analysis time was 8 minutes with samples eluting from 3.8 to 5.8 minutes. Calibration curves for each analyte had acceptable R2 values > 0.99 using a weighting factor of 1/x. A linear dynamic range of 0.5 – 25 ng/mL was used for all analytes, except for APP-PICA and NM2201 which were quantifiable at 0.1 ng/mL and PB-22 which used a quadratic model. Extraction of analytes using supported liquid extraction (SLE) cartridge improved sample-prep time by more than half, compared to traditional solid phase extraction (SPE) methods. Percent recovery of analytes using SLE was determined to be from 54.92 to 83.36%. Bias and Precision was assessed at 1, 3, 7, and 20 ng/mL for all analytes. All samples had acceptable calculated percent bias and percent coefficient of variation (%CV) within ±20%. No carryover was observed with this method. Matrix effect, using 10 different sources, did not have any interfering effects on detection and quantification of analytes. Ionization suppression and enhancement was observed at various levels, from -4.47 to 76.67%, but had little effect on other validation parameters. Analysis of other commonly encountered drugs (clonazepam, diazepam, (+) methadone, morphine, fentanyl, cocaine, amphetamine, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), 25I-NBOMe, and phencyclidine (PCP)) does not show any source of interference. The overall development and validation of this method demonstrates a sensitive and reliable way to positively identify 17 different synthetic cannabinoids in human whole blood in rapid time.