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Using Papaverine and Its Metabolites, 6-Desmethyl Papaverine and 4', 6-Didesmethyl Papaverine as Biomarkers to Improve the Detection Time of Heroin Use

NCJ Number
Journal of Analytical Toxicology Volume: 43 Issue: 8 Dated: 2019 Pages: 600-606
Date Published
7 pages

This article presents a method for the detection of papaverine and its metabolites, 6-desmethyl papaverine (6-DMP) and 4′, 6-didesmethyl papaverine (4,6-DDMP), in urine using a modified Waters® MCX™ microelution method. 


Opioid usage in the United States has increased over the past decade, with prescriptions increasing from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013. New regulations have curbed the number of prescriptions, leading to an increase in heroin use. Heroin-related overdoses have quadrupled between 2000 and 2015. The traditional urinary biomarkers for indicating heroin use are a combination of morphine and 6-acetyl morphine (6-AM). Morphine is detectable in urine for several days. 6-AM is detected in urine for 2–8 hours. Papaverine has been proposed as an alternative heroin biomarker. It has been reported to have a 1–2 day detection window. Papaverine metabolites have been reported to have up to a 3-day detection window. The proposed detection method involves ultra-performance liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC–MS-MS), with a Waters’ BEH C18 column, and 20 mM ammonium formate water: 20 mM ammonium formate methanol mobile phase was employed. Calibration curves were linear from 0.1 to 50 ng/mL. No interferences were observed from the analysis of multicomponent therapeutic drug or drugs of abuse control materials; intra- and inter-run precision tests were acceptable. A total of 428 genuine urine specimens where heroin use was suspected were analyzed. These included 101 6-AM and 179 morphine only positive samples as well as 6 morphine-negative samples where papaverine and/or metabolites were detected. The determined concentrations in these samples for papaverine, 6-DMP and 4,6-DDMP ranged from 0.10 to 994, 0.10 to 462 and 0.12 to 218 ng/mL, respectively. The method was rugged and robust for the analysis of papaverine and metabolites, 6-DMP and 4,6-DDMP. The use papaverine and metabolites, 6-DMP and 4,6-DDMP has the potential to increase the detection window of heroin use. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019