A review of techniques used to screen biological specimens for the presence of drugs was conducted with particular reference to systematic toxicological analysis. Extraction systems of both the liquid-liquid and solid-phase type show little apparent difference in their relative ability to extract a range of drugs according to their physio-chemical properties, although mixed-phase SPE extraction is a preferred technique for GC-based applications, and liquid-liquid were preferred for HPLC-based applications. No one chromatographic system has been shown to be capable of detecting a full range of common drugs of abuse, and common ethical drugs, hence two or more assays are required for laboratories wishing to cover a reasonably comprehensive range of drugs of toxicological significance. While immunoassays are invariably used to screen for drugs of abuse, chromatographic systems relying on derivatization and capable of extracting both acidic and basic drugs would be capable of screening a limited range of targeted drugs. Drugs most difficult to detect in systematic toxicological analysis include LSD, psilocin, THC and its metabolites, fentanyl and its designer derivatives, some potent opiates, potent benzodiazepines and some potent neuroleptics, many of the newer anti-convulsants, alkaloids colchicine, amantins, aflatoxins, antineoplastics, coumarin-based anti-coagulants, and a number of cardiovascular drugs. The widespread use of LC-MS and LC-MS-MS for specific drug detection and the emergence of capillary electrophoresis linked to MS and MS-MS provide an exciting possibility for the future to increase the range of drugs detected in any one chromatographic screening system. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.
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