Quantitative, Multidrug Pain Medication Testing by Liquid Chromatography: Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)

  • Geza S. BodorEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1383)


Chronic pain is often treated with narcotic analgesics. The most commonly used narcotic analgesics are the opiates (natural or modified compounds of the poppy plant) or opioids (synthetic chemicals that act on opiate receptors). While opiates and opioids are excellent analgesics, they can also have significant side effects that include respiratory depression, coma, or death. Tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction (psychological dependence) are other severe side effects of opioid use. Patients who develop dependence or addiction often times abuse other, non-opioid narcotics and may trade their prescription medication for illegal street drugs (called “diversion”). In order to minimize side effects, detect possible multidrug abuse and prove diversion, simultaneous monitoring of numerous prescription and illicit drugs is required.

The method described in this chapter is for the quantitative measurement of 43 different drugs in urine. The panel includes narcotic pain medications, benzodiazepines, NIDA drugs, and other, commonly abused medications. The analytes of interests are injected in the presence of deuterated internal standards to correct for possible extraction inefficiencies, ion suppression, or other interferences. The sample is prepared by adding dilution buffer with the deuterated internal standards to the sample, followed by reversed-phase, gradient HPLC separation on a Phenyl-Hexyl column using water and methanol as mobile phases. Detection of the analytes of interest is done by isotope-dilution mass spectrometry on a triple-quadrupole tandem mass spectrometer following electrospray ionization in the positive mode. Mass spectrometric (MS) data are collected in the scheduled MRM (sMRM) mode. Two MRM transitions are monitored for each analyte and one MRM transition is monitored for each IS. Quantitation of the unknown analytes is achieved by comparing the peak area ratios of the analytes to that of the internal standards and reading the unknown concentration from a seven-point calibration curve.

Key words

Opiates Opioids Narcotic analgesic Drugs of abuse Liquid chromatography Tandem mass spectrometry 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pathology and Laboratory Medicine ServiceVA Eastern Colorado Health Care SystemDenverUSA

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