Journal of analytical toxicology

Detection of non-prescription heroin markers in urine with liquid chromatography-atmospheric pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometry.

PMID 11550816


The planned introduction of a prescription heroin program in Germany created a need for differentiation between non-prescription and prescribed diamorphine use. The following substances were chosen as markers of non-prescription heroin: acetylcodeine (AC); its metabolites codeine (C) and codeine 6-glucuronide (C6G); papaverine (P); and noscapine (N). Typical heroin markers diamorphine (DAM) and its metabolites monoacetylmorphine (MAM) and morphine (M) were also determined. The drugs were extracted from urine samples with solid-phase extraction (C18) using standard 200-mg columns and 96-well microplates (100 mg). The extracts were examined with liquid chromatography-atmospheric pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometry (positive ionization) in two isocratic systems. Selected ion monitoring procedures were applied for protonated molecular masses and characteristic fragments of drugs involved. The limits of detection were in the range of 0.5-1 ng/mL urine. The occurrence of selected heroin markers was investigated in 25 urine samples collected from heroin abusers (road traffic offenders and overdosed patients). C6G was found in all samples, C in 24 samples, N in 22 samples, MAM in 16 samples, P in 14 samples, DAM in 12 samples, and AC in 4 samples. The appearance of these compounds in urine reflects their pharmacokinetic properties and the composition of non-prescription heroin.