N-ethylhexedrone (NEH) and buphedrone (BUPH) are synthetic drugs structurally related to natural cathinone. These synthetic cathinones (SC) are members of the heterogenous family of new psychoactive substances (NPS), which have caused major concern in scientific and forensic communities over the past years, due to their widespread consume. Thus, there is a constant need for monitoring the use of these new substances and gather knowledge on their metabolism and excretion profiles, in order to try to identify markers of NPS consumption.
This study aimed at the identification and quantification of NEH, BUPH and selected phase I metabolites using HPLC-MS/MS. NEH, BUPH and some related metabolites were synthesized in-house and quantified in 24 h mice urine, following single dose administration of each drug (64 mg kg−1, i.p.). NEH and BUPH were quantified in mice urine at 58.3 ± 14.4 and 146.2 ± 14.9 µg mL−1, respectively. Similar metabolic pathways were observed for both drugs. Among the metabolites studied, the most excreted ones derived from N-dealkylation of either NEH or BUPH (at around 80 µg mL−1 of urine). Other metabolites resulting from ketone reduction and ketone reduction combined with N-dealkylation or 4-aryl hydroxylation (detected for the first time in non-ring substituted SC) were also identified and quantified. Urine samples were screened using liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry and various phase II metabolites, including N-acetylated, glucuronides and dicarboxylic acid conjugates were tentatively identified, some of them for the first time. This work is a contribution to the identification of metabolites from SC that can become potential markers to estimate drug consumption.
By Joana Carrola, Noélia Duarte, Pedro Florindo, Sara Henriques, Gustavo da Silva, Lubertus Bijlsma, Rui Moreira, Catarina Correia, Maria de Jesus Perrya, Álvaro Lopes, Cristina de Mello-Sampayo, Maria do Rosário Bronz