Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues represent a current and emerging threat in the United States as pure illicit narcotics and as cutting agents with heroin. Because of their extreme potency, methods to safely and rapidly detect these compounds are of high interest. This work investigates the use of thermal desorption direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry (TD- DART-MS) and ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) as tools for the rapid and sensitive (nanogram to sub-nanogram) detection of fentanyl, 16 fentanyl analogues, and five additional opioids. Competitive ionization studies highlight that detection of these compounds in the presence of heroin is readily achievable, down to 0.01 % fentanyl by mass with TD-DART-MS. With IMS, detection of nanogram levels of fentanyl in a binary fentanyl and heroin mixture is possible but can be complicated by decreased resolution in certain commercial instruments. Instrument- specific workarounds can be used to ensure detection of fentanyl in binary mixtures. Additionally, three complex background matrices (fingerprint residue, dirt, and plasticizers) are shown to have a minimal effect of the detection of these compounds. Wipe sampling the outside of bags containing suspect powders is a safe alternative method for field screening and identification, removing the need to handle potentially lethal amounts of material.
Forensic Science International
Fentanyl, Trace Detection, IMS, DART-MS, Opioids, Narcotics