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Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for the Detection and Quantification of Abused Drugs

Forensic Science

  1. Brian Dawson

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a1119

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Dawson, B. 2006. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for the Detection and Quantification of Abused Drugs. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. Bureau of Biologics and Radiopharmaceuticals, Therapeutic Products Programme, Ottawa, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy provides the forensic analyst with an extremely powerful tool for the detection and quantification of abused drugs. A whole range of one-dimensional (1-D) and two-dimensional (2-D) NMR techniques is available for performing the required analyses. These NMR methods may be used for routine purposes, such as to confirm the identity of a drug or quantify the amount of illicit substance present in a police exhibit. However, the area where NMR stands out as an analytical tool is in the identification of unknown compounds, such as “designer drugs”. NMR is also used in police intelligence work, as it can provide clues to the synthetic route used to prepare the drug. This is done by impurity profiling or by determining the drug's optical purity. Although NMR has been used for many years to analyze abused drugs, even the most modern spectrometers lack the sensitivity obtainable by other techniques such as mass spectrometry (MS) or high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). However, NMR is a nondestructive technique which provides essential structural information which cannot be obtained from these other methods. NMR also has the distinct advantage of not requiring reference standards for the identification of unknowns.