Bioanalysis Zone

Cat and mouse: the analytical toxicology of designer drugs

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“The type and variety of abused drugs is ever changing, challenging the analytical toxicologist to compete with appropriate methodologies with the application of existing techniques and development of new ones.”

The term ‘designer drug’ is relatively unique in that it is as familiar to the scientific drug community as it is to the wider public. This is largely due to its use by the media during the last two decades to describe newly abused drugs that may be involved in a trend of use. Such drugs have generally been produced to avoid existing drug-control laws and some have been marketed as ‘legal highs’. This may be achieved by the synthesis of a new type of drug, or more commonly, modification of an existing structure or class. This has particularly involved amphetamine- and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ‘Ecstasy’)-like drugs (both stimulant and hallucinogenic) but also anabolic steroids such as tetrahydrogestrinone – which became a high-profile issue in sport.

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