Hair-based rapid analyses for multiple drugs in forensics and doping: Application of dynamic multiple reaction monitoring with LC-MS/MS

Iltaf Shah, Andrea Petroczi, Martina Uvacsek, Márta Ránky, Declan P. Naughton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Considerable efforts are being extended to develop more effective methods to detect drugs in forensic science for applications such as preventing doping in sport. The aim of this study was to develop a sensitive and accurate method for analytes of forensic and toxicological nature in human hair at sub-pg levels. Results: The hair test covers a range of different classes of drugs and metabolites of forensic and toxicological nature including selected anabolic steroids, cocaine, amphetamines, cannabinoids, opiates, bronchodilators, phencyclidine and ketamine. For extraction purposes, the hair samples were decontaminated using dichloromethane, ground and treated with 1 M sodium hydroxide and neutralised with hydrochloric acid and phosphate buffer and the homogenate was later extracted with hexane using liquid-liquid extraction (LLE). Following extraction from hair samples, drug-screening employed liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometric (LC-MS/MS) analysis using dynamic multiple reaction monitoring (DYN-MRM) method using proprietary software. The screening method (for > 200 drugs/metabolites) was calibrated with a tailored drug mixture and was validated for 20 selected drugs for this study. Using standard additions to hair sample extracts, validation was in line with FDA guidance. A Zorbax Eclipse plus C18 (2.1 mm internal diameter × 100 mm length × 1.8 μm particle size) column was used for analysis. Total instrument run time was 8 minutes with no noted matrix interferences. The LOD of compounds ranged between 0.05-0.5 pg/mg of hair. 233 human hair samples were screened using this new method and samples were confirmed positive for 20 different drugs, mainly steroids and drugs of abuse. Conclusions: This is the first report of the application of this proprietary system to investigate the presence of drugs in human hair samples. The method is selective, sensitive and robust for the screening and confirmation of multiple drugs in a single analysis and has potential as a very useful tool for the analysis of large array of controlled substances and drugs of abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Article number73
JournalChemistry Central Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Controlled drugs
  • Doping
  • Drugs of abuse
  • Dynamic MRM
  • Forensics
  • Human hair
  • LC-MS/MS
  • Toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry


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