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The Utility of Ultra High Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography for the Analysis of Seized Drugs: Application to Synthetic Cannabinoids and Bath Salts

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2016
103 pages

This project examined the role of ultra-high- performance supercritical fluid chromatography (UHPSFC) as a separation technique for forensic drug analysis, with attention to the separation of emerging drugs such as synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts.


The use of emerging drugs that are synthesized to circumvent the controlled substances laws has greatly increased over the last few years. New structurally similar compounds, such as synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts, are created by slightly modifying the chemical structure of a controlled substance. For the analysis of these solutes for legal purposes, the desired analytical method should distinguish between similar solutes (analogues, homologues, positional isomers, and diastereoisomers). Separation methods such as liquid chromatography (HPLC, UHPLC) and gas chromatography (GC) have played a major role in the analysis of synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts. The current project has demonstrated that UHPSFC has the potential to be superior to UHPLC and/or GC for the analysis of similar solutes, such as positional isomers of synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts, as well as diastereoisomers of synthetic cannabinoids. For the separation of a diverse group for each class of emerging groups, including mainly non-isomeric solutes, UHPSFC has been demonstrated to be orthogonal to GC and UHPLC. This project thus concludes that the use of UHPSFC would assist the criminal justice system in the adjudication of emerging drug cases. It would be particularly useful in determining which, if any, controlled substances are present in seized drugs, particularly emerging drugs. In addition to these outcomes and recommendations, this report describes the project's design, methods, and data analysis. 29 figures, 16 tables, and 7 references

Date Published: September 1, 2016