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Quantification of MDMA in seized tablets using benchtop 1H NMR spectroscopy in the absence of internal standards

Hussain, J Hena and Gilbert, Nicolas and Costello, Andrew and Schofield, Christopher J and Kemsley, E Kate and Sutcliffe, Oliver B and Mewis, Ryan E (2020) Quantification of MDMA in seized tablets using benchtop 1H NMR spectroscopy in the absence of internal standards. Forensic Chemistry, 20. p. 100263. ISSN 2468-1709

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Abstract

Recreational MDMA use is a worldwide problem. Tablet dosage varies, thus entailing a requirement for quantitative analysis. The quantification of MDMA in tablets using benchtop 1H NMR spectroscopy via either linear regression (‘manual’ method) or partial least square regression (‘automated’ method) approaches are reported, without the need for an internal standard, and compared against contemporaneously obtained GC–MS data. Twenty samples were evaluated of which 15 were proven to contain MDMA, via qualitative NMR (hit score ≥ 0.97) and GC–MS (Rt = 5.6 min) analysis. Quantitative NMR analysis showed that the mean value of MDMA content was 42.6% w/w by the manual method and 45.9% w/w by the automated method. The mean value obtained from GC analysis was 44.0% w/w. A substantial proportion (n = 9) of the tablets tested possessed > 190 mg of MDMA (range 133–223 mg, average of all techniques’ calculations for each tablet). This value is higher than the reported average MDMA content of tablets by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), which was ca. 125 mg of MDMA per tablet in 2016.

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