Intoxication caused by new psychostimulants: analytical methods to disclose acute and chronic use of benzofurans and ethylphenidate

Bernardino Barceló, Isabel Gomila, Maria Concetta Rotolo, Emilia Marchei, Chrystalla Kyriakou, Simona Pichini, Carolina Roset, Miguel Ángel Elorza, Francesco Paolo Busardò

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The acute and chronic toxicity of several new psychoactive substances (NPS) is unknown, and only little information is available on the pharmacology and toxicology, toxicokinetics, and detectability in body samples of such new compounds. We here propose analytical methods to disclose acute and chronic use of two types of new psychostimulants: benzofurans and ethylphenidate and we applied them to a real case of a subject attending Emergency Department with signs of acute intoxication due to psychotropic drug(s). After a urinary immunoassay screening which gave a positivity to amphetamines, general unknown gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) urine analysis identified 5-(2-methylaminopropyl)benzofuran (5-MAPB), 5-(2-aminopropyl)benzofuran (5-APB), 5-(2-ethylaminopropyl)benzofuran (5-EAPB), ethylphenidate, and ritalinic acid. All these substances were confirmed and quantified not only in urine but also in serum samples at different times after hospitalization by GC-MS and ultra-high performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS). Two subsequent 2-cm hair segments were also analyzed and tested positive for the above reported substances, evidencing repeated use. The matching quantitative results in all the analyzed biological matrices demonstrated that both analytical methodologies were suitable to correctly quantify NPS involved in the current intoxication. The objective assessment of acute and chronic intoxication by the above reported compounds demonstrate that the development of analytical methods aiming at the detection of a broad spectrum of compounds in conventional and non-conventional biological matrices is helpful when facing the new challenging threat of intoxications caused by NPS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1543-1553
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Benzofurans
  • Ethylphenidate
  • GC-MS
  • Intoxication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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