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A new problem in prisons: Novel Synthetic Opioids

Written by: Alan Baker 6th September, 2022

Circulating in prisons, a new psychoactive substance has triggered challenges and health risks for the criminal justice system.

A recent case in 2021 involved a letter sent from a German prison which was suspected to be drug infused.Toxicology tests were performed on the letter with the use of a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry for the drug screening and liquid chromatography (LC)–tandem mass spectrometry with the addition of high-performance LC with diode-array detection for semi-quantification of the compounds.

Results concluded that the novel synthetic opioid (NSO) AP-237 was identified on the letter with an estimated concentration of 1.2 μg/cm2, together with the synthetic cannabinoid MDMB-4en-PINACA (77 μg/cm2) and 5F-ADB (6.5 μg/cm2).

It is understood that the potent NSOs could be dissolved in organic solvents therefore producing impregnated papers and textiles, consequently causing a serious threat to the health of prisoners.

Laboratories analysing these suspected papers should be aware of the potential presence of NSOs and adapt the respective methods accordingly.