Color spot test as a presumptive tool for the rapid detection of synthetic cathinones

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Visualized Experiments, 2018, 2018 (132)
Issue Date:
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© 2018 Journal of Visualized Experiments. Synthetic cathinones are a large class of new psychoactive substances (NPS) that are increasingly prevalent in drug seizures made by law enforcement and other border protection agencies globally. Color testing is a presumptive identification technique indicating the presence or absence of a particular drug class using rapid and uncomplicated chemical methods. Owing to their relatively recent emergence, a color test for the specific identification of synthetic cathinones is not currently available. In this study, we introduce a protocol for the presumptive identification of synthetic cathinones, employing three aqueous reagent solutions: copper(II) nitrate, 2,9-dimethyl-1,10-phenanthroline (neocuproine) and sodium acetate. Small pin-head sized amounts (approximately 0.1-0.2 mg) of the suspected drugs are added to the wells of a porcelain spot plate, and each reagent is then added dropwise sequentially before heating on a hotplate. A color change from very light blue to yellow-orange after 10 min indicates the likely presence of synthetic cathinones. The highly stable and specific test reagent has the potential for use in the presumptive screening of unknown samples for synthetic cathinones in a forensic laboratory. However, the nuisance of an added heating step for the color change result limits the test to laboratory application and decreases the likelihood of an easy translation to field testing.
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