Differentiation of South American crack and domestic (US) crack cocaine via headspace-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.

Drug testing and analysis (2014-10-11)
Valerie L Colley, John F Casale
RESUMEN

South American 'crack' cocaine, produced directly from coca leaf, can be distinguished from US domestically produced crack on the basis of occluded solvent profiles. In addition, analysis of domestically produced crack indicates the solvents that were used for cocaine hydrochloride (HCl) processing in South America. Samples of cocaine base (N=3) from South America and cocaine from the USA (N=157 base, N=88 HCl) were analyzed by headspace-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (HS-GC-MS) to determine their solvent profiles. Each cocaine HCl sample was then converted to crack cocaine using the traditional crack production method and re-examined by HS-GC-MS. The resulting occluded solvent profiles were then compared to their original HCl solvent profiles. Analysis of the corresponding crack samples confirmed the same primary processing solvents found in the original HCl samples, but at reduced levels. Domestically seized crack samples also contained reduced levels of base-to-HCl conversion solvents. In contrast, analysis of South American crack samples confirmed the presence of low to high boiling hydrocarbons and no base-to-HCl conversion solvents. The presented study showed analysis of crack cocaine samples provides data on which processing solvents were originally utilized in the production of cocaine HCl in South America, prior to conversion to crack cocaine. Determination of processing solvents provides valuable information to the counter-drug intelligence community and assists the law enforcement community in determining cocaine distribution and trafficking routes throughout the world.

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