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Using NMR to identify and quantify illicit drugs

Since 2005 there has been a massive increase in the availability of designer drugs and the world has seen more than 300 novel psychoactive substances (NPS) added to the illicit drug market.  At the National Measurement Institute (NMI) forensic scientists are using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to identify these new designer drugs.  Initially the province of organic chemists, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is an ideal technique for molecular structure elucidation and has become an indispensable tool for synthetic chemists who use it to determine structure and monitor reactions.

One dimensional proton and carbon NMR spectroscopy form the backbone of techniques used but the multinuclear and two dimensional NMR capabilities make the identification of these novel psychoactive substances almost routine for forensic laboratories.  Most NPS contain nitrogen and many contain fluorine so having the capability to ‘count’ nitrogen and fluorine atoms is also invaluable. Many of these substances are just structural or stereoisomers of each other and again NMR provides the means to distinguish between these entities. 

In combination with mass spectroscopy, NMR has proven to be an indispensable identification tool in dealing effectively with new psychoactive substances.  NMR is also an essential tool for the production of forensic reference materials.  NMI’s synthesis chemists produce hundreds of reference materials for use in forensic laboratories in Australia as well as other countries around the world. NMR allows these chemists to follow reaction pathways and ensure that the reference materials they produce are of the highest quality and may be used in forensic procedures that will withstand court scrutiny.

In addition to identifying new designer drugs with challenging structures NMI’s forensic scientists take advantage of access to a 500 MHz spectrometer within NMI and use it for routine quantification of simple drugs such as methylamphetamine (Ice).  Using NMR as a means of quantifying or determining purity of substances may not be as well known but nevertheless its use is well documented. 

The area under the signals in an NMR spectrum is directly proportional to the number of nuclei producing the signals.  Sample preparation is a simple ‘dilute and shoot’ process.  Approximately 10-15 mg of sample is accurately weighed into a vial.  A known volume of deuterated water containing a known amount of a certified internal standard is added and the resulting solution is transferred to an NMR tube and subjected to the quantitative NMR process.  There is no need for sample extraction or derivatization steps and the whole process takes minutes.  At NMI this quantification procedure has been validated and includes a comprehensive measurement uncertainty budget.  The new approach to quantification of methylamphetamine and its precursor chemicals has received NATA accreditation.

NMR has been around for a long time.  It was the product of the imagination of physicists and has its theoretical basis in quantum mechanics.  It was rapidly adopted by chemists and biochemists and then in a different form became an invaluable diagnostic tool in hospitals.  Today, in our changing world, this technique has become a significant aid to forensic science.

NMI Training Courses

The following NMI courses are offered during August – October 2015.

Please click on the course name for further details.

To register, simply complete an enrollment form and return to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

For further information please visit the training page on our website or contact us on +61 2 8467 3796. 

Chemical & Biological Metrology Training

Locations

Dates

Price

Analytical method validation

Melbourne

25 – 26 August

$1795.00

Estimating measurement uncertainty for chemists

Melbourne

27 – 28 August

$1795.00

Laboratory management

Perth

8 – 9 September

$1795.00

Statistics for metrology

Brisbane

14 October

$985.00

Estimating measurement uncertainty for biologists

Brisbane

29 October

$985.00

Physical Metrology Training

 

 

 

Temperature measurement

Sydney

25 – 27 August

$2363.64

Introduction to estimating measurement uncertainty

Adelaide
Sydney
Melbourne

2 September
15 September
6 October

$985.00

Electrical measurement

Sydney

16 –17 September

$1795.00

Dimensional measurement

Melbourne

7 – 8 October

$1795.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For further information please visit the training page on our website or contact us on +61 2 8467 3796.