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Trace-Level Screening of Chemicals Related to Clandestine Desomorphine Production With Ambient Sampling, Portable Mass Spectrometry

NCJ Number
Journal of Chemistry Dated: 2017
Date Published
10 pages

This article presents the findings and methodology of a project that implemented desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) and paper spray ionization (PSI) on a portable mass spectrometer for the direct analysis of desomorphine and precursor reagent codeine from multiple substrates of potential relevance to clandestine drug laboratory synthesis and paraphernalia seizure.


Desomorphine is a semisynthetic opioid that is responsible for the psychoactive effects of a dangerous homemade injectable mixture that goes by street name "Krokodil." The validity of the method for its direct analysis was evaluated through the analysis of trace-level surface-bound residues, yielding low- to sub-ng detection limits from several substrates common to clandestine synthesis. Characteristic fragmentation similar to those reported in the literature and obtained on high-resolution MS instrumentation was achieved, providing confirmation of the target analytes. Due to the varying nature of forensic evidence with regard to chemical complexity, the applicability of the proposed method to multicomponent sample analysis was demonstrated, yielding high chemical specificity. Analysis of an authentic source of codeine precursor (in the form of prescription pharmaceutical tablets) was also demonstrated, supporting the proposed method's ability to directly analyze forensic evidence with minimal sample preparation. 4 figures,1 table, and 27 references (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2017