Drug testing and analysis

An analysis of legal highs: do they contain what it says on the tin?

PMID 21595051


In recent years the availability of so-called legal highs over the Internet has hugely increased. Numerous online legal-high retailers market a broad variety of products which are advertised as research chemicals, bath salts, or plant food although clearly intended for human consumption as recreational drug replacements. No guidelines exist as to what is sold and in what purity. Consumers are led to believe that purchased goods are entirely legal. In this study, several legal-high products were purchased and analyzed for their content. The powdered products were screened with attenuated total reflectance-Fourier Transform Infrared (ATR-FTIR) followed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis of methanol extracts. Spectra were compared to reference standards and the NIST library. Results showed that 6 out of 7 products did not contain the advertised active ingredient. Moreover, five samples contained the controlled substances benzylpiperazine and 1-[3-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl]piperazine combined with caffeine.