Science and Technology News

Monday, September 12, 2016

Characterization of Designer Drugs: Chemical Stability, Exposure, and Metabolite Identification, Final Summary Overview and Appendix

Authors: Megan Grabenauer, Katherine N. Moore, Brian F. Thomas

Designer drugs, such as synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones have become increasingly prevalent, as have their health and societal consequences.

Currently, little is known about the pharmacological and toxicological profiles of these products. The consequences of long-term usage have yet to be studied, and behavioral and metabolic studies have only been performed on a relatively limited number of compounds.

Most forensic laboratories are not equipped with the analytical research capabilities required to keep up with the rapid turnover of designer drugs being marketed for recreational use. Detection of these designer drugs remains a challenge because as bans on specific compounds go into effect, manufacturers substitute closely related analogs for the newly banned substances, creating a constantly moving analytical target.

The objective of this research is to gain a more thorough understanding of designer drugs with respect to their chemical exposure profiles and biological elimination pathways. The goals of this project were to:
1.         Determine the stability of currently popular designer drugs and identify major degradation products, including pyrolysis products;
2.         Identify their major metabolites.
The dataset of metabolites suitable as potential markers of use that was developed by this research is extensive and serves as a reliable starting point for forensic laboratories across the country to develop assays for detection of use.

New designer drugs are still coming to market, faster than targeted testing can keep up. However, within each class of designer drugs, the elements of chemical structure and design often follow known or rational substitution patterns required to enhance or retain pharmacological activity.

By performing a thorough and systematic study looking at families of structurally related compounds, researchers are able to predict markers for broad classes of compounds and help practitioners keep up with designer drug manufacturers.

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