In recent years, the analysis of synthetic cannabinoids in human specimens has gained enormous importance in the broad field of drug testing. Nevertheless, the considerable structural diversity among synthetic cannabinoids already identified in ‘herbal mixtures’ hampers the development of comprehensive analytical methods. As the identification of the main metabolites of newly appearing substances is very laborious and time-consuming, the detection of the parent compounds in blood samples is the current approach of choice for drug abstinence testing. Whenever blood sampling is not possible however, the need for alternative matrices arises.
In this article, we present a fully validated liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (LC/ESI-MS/MS) method for the analysis of 30 synthetic cannabinoids in oral fluid samples collected with the Dräger DCD 5000 collection device. The method proved to be suitable for the quantification of 28 substances. The limits of detection were in the range from 0.015 to 0.9 ng/ml, while the lower limits of quantification ranged from 0.15 to 3.0 ng/ml. The method was successfully applied to 264 authentic samples during routine analysis. A total of 31 samples (12%) was tested positive for at least one of the following synthetic cannabinoids: AM-694, AM-2201, JWH-018, JWH-019, JWH-081, JWH-122, JWH-203, JWH-210, JWH-250, JWH-307, MAM-2201, and RCS-4. Given that stabilization of the collection pads after sampling is warranted, the collection device provides satisfactory sensitivity. Hence, whenever blood sampling is not possible, the Dräger DCD 5000 collection device offers a good tool for the analysis of synthetic cannabinoids in oral fluid in the broad field of drug testing. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.