UCT SPE Columns Cited in Illicit Fentanyl Fatalities Paper

One of the more recent prescription drugs being abused illicitly is Fentanyl. This compound induces pharmacological effects and abuse liability comparable to other prescription opioids and heroin. A surge in fentanyl-related fatalities has been periodically reported throughout the USA. In an article published in the Special Issue of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology (JAT) by a team lead by Prof. B. A. Goldberger ((2016) 40:588–594), UCT’s flagship sorbent Clean Screen® DAU was employed to extract and analyze post mortem blood samples for fentanyl.

The Forensic Toxicology Laboratory at the University of Florida observed a significant increase in fentanyl-related deaths starting in mid-2014. The specimens were analyzed for fentanyl by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry; the limit of detection (LOD) was 0.62 ng/mL and the limit of quantification (LOQ) was 2.5 ng/mL. During the 7-month period, the laboratory tested 143 postmortem cases for fentanyl. It was observed that 50% had quantifiable fentanyl in postmortem blood. Fentanyl concentrations ranged from 2.5 to 68 ng/mL (n = 66; median: 9.8 ng/mL); Concurrent detection of 6-acetylmorphine, morphine and cocaine along with other opioids and benzodiazepines was common. Of the 59 deaths from one area, the cause of death was accidental drug intoxication with fentanyl as a sole or contributing factor for 57 cases (two non-drug intoxication deaths). Most of the decedents had no prescription for fentanyl. Considering fentanyl’s high potency and abuse liability, the recent rise in fentanyl-related deaths is a serious public health concern and signifies the urgent need to establish prevention and treatment efforts.

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