OBJECTIVES: Until recently, routine toxicological analysis of some hallucinogens in biological material posed problems which were only resolved after the introduction of modern analytic systems into toxicological laboratories. The most frequent hallucinogens in clinical and forensic toxicology can be grouped as: cannabinoids, tropane alkaloids, N,N-dimethyltryptamine derivatives and synthetic or semisynthetic hallucinogens.
METHODS & RESULTS: There are several methods currently used for their analysis. Immunoassay analysis of abused hallucinogens is limited to the cannabinoids. Thin layer chromatography (TLC) is able to detect higher concentrations of 1-nor-delta- 9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid (THC-COOH), tropane alkaloids (atropine and scopolamine) and ketamine (synthetic hallucinogen) in urine but for lower concentrations and for some other substances it lacks sensitivity. A reliable solution to the demand for specific and sensitive analysis of hallucinogens in biological material is gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Thus, at present, analysis of cannabinoids, tropane alkaloids, ketamine as well as psilocin (N,N-dimethyltryptamine derivative) is well-managed.
CONCLUSIONS: The introduction of GC-MS systems appears to be indispensable for satisfactory qualitative and quantitative analysis of drugs of abuse, particularly hallucinogens in biological material.