Forensic Toxicology

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 34–44 | Cite as

Rapid tentative identification of synthetic cathinones in seized products taking advantage of the full capabilities of triple quadrupole analyzer

  • David Fabregat-Safont
  • Juan V. Sancho
  • Félix Hernández
  • María IbáñezEmail author
Original Article



In this work, a new approach for synthetic cathinone identification in seized products, consisting of a rapid pseudo-target screening using liquid chromatography coupled to low-resolution tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS), is proposed based on typical common product ions and neutral losses observed for this drug class.


The term “pseudo-target” screening indicates that although a pre-defined target compound list is not used, the search is limited to synthetic cathinones with expected common moieties. A total of 22 neutral losses and 36 common product ions were monitored and used for cathinone identification.


In order to test the approach, 14 blind samples were analyzed and the results compared with high-resolution mass spectrometry data. From the data obtained, the different moieties of the cathinones (and therefore their structures) could be derived, allowing their tentative identification.


This methodology will be useful for the first and rapid synthetic cathinone detection in laboratories that have low-resolution MS/MS instrumentation.


Synthetic cathinones “Pseudo-target” screening Low-resolution tandem mass spectrometry Tentative identification Precursor ion scan Neutral loss scan 



The authors acknowledge financial support from Generalitat Valenciana (Group of Excellence Prometeo II 2014/023) and from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad in Spain (Project: CTQ2015-65603-P). The authors also acknowledge NPS-Euronet (HOME/2014/JDRUG/AG/DRUG/7086), co-funded by the European Union. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. D. Fabregat-Safont acknowledges Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte in Spain for his predoctoral grant (Grant FPU15/02033). Authors also acknowledge Energy Control for providing the research chemical samples used for testing the pseudo-target screening strategy.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There are no financial or other relations that could lead to a conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

11419_2018_432_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (471 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 471 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japanese Association of Forensic Toxicology and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Institute for Pesticides and WaterUniversity Jaume ICastellón de la PlanaSpain

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