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Identifying ‘designer’ drugs taken by overdose patients

Unfortunately opioid drugs are constantly in the news. Overdose patients taking these dangerous designer drugs often pass out or, in some cases, even die. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.

Fortunately, a young IUPUI chemistry faculty member and his team, using paper spray mass spectrometry, are developing a process to combat this epidemic. Dr. Nicholas Manicke, Assistant Professor, contacted Daniel E. Rusyniak, M.D., at the I.U. School of Medicine, and together they are tackling the problem.

In a life-or-death situation collecting blood samples, sending these to a toxicology laboratory does not work since time is of the essence. Dr. Manicke says the development of his screening system could be used in emergency rooms to identify the drugs responsible for a patient's overdose.

The key component is a small inexpensive, disposable cartridge that contains a solid-phase extraction medium. When a small amount of plasma is placed on the cartridge, the medium pulls any drugs out of the plasma and concentrates them. The drugs are removed from the extraction medium by a drop of solvent, and then they are ionized to produce an array of molecular fragments.

Dr. Manicke's student, Greta Ren, presented this work at a ACS 255th national meeting in New Orleans poster session, whereupon ACS invited her to present this work at a press conference. Dr. Partha Basu, chair of the chemistry department was at the news conference reporting that she was "poised and composed."

This work is supported by a large grant from the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Story written by Erwin Boschmann