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The Role of Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to Test Blood and Urine Samples for the Toxicological Investigation of Drug-Facilitated Crimes

Deveaux, Marc PhD; Chèze, Marjorie PhD; Pépin, Gilbert PhD

doi: 10.1097/FTD.0b013e3181676186
Proceedings Paper

The authors present an overview of the drug-facilitated crime (DFC) phenomenon, especially in France. Recently, there has been an increase in reports of incidents (mainly sexual assaults and robbery) as well as in scientific publications and congress presentations on the topic. From enquiries conducted nationally, a list of drugs reportedly associated with DFC was established and includes benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-like drugs (zolpidem, zopiclone), minor tranquilizers and neuroleptics, barbiturates, narcotics, hallucinogens, and anaesthetics. Some of these molecules are specific to France in DFC cases. A study using healthy volunteers who had taken benzodiazepines (lorazepam, bromazepam, flunitrazepam, clonazepam), zolpidem and zopiclone, showed that the only way to increase the duration of detection of these drugs is to use liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to test blood and urine samples. The very high sensitivity of this method appears to be an essential condition to document the cases, because the drugs tested were still detectable in urine at least 6 days after the ingestion of one therapeutic dose. Limits of detection were always lower than 0.5 ng/mL in urine. The actual list of molecules and metabolites the authors screened for in urine and blood by LC-MS/MS, in every DFC, is given in detail: 25 benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-like drugs, 11 minor tranquilizers and neuroleptics, 2 barbiturates, 12 narcotics, 4 hallucinogens, and 1 anaesthetic. However, the distinction between continual therapeutic use of a psychotropic drug or illegal narcotic and a single ingestion has to be documented by sequential analysis of hair, again with LC-MS/MS.

From the Laboratoire Toxlab, Paris, France.

Received for publication October 3, 2007; accepted December 29, 2007.

Correspondence: Marc Deveaux, PhD Laboratoire Toxlab, 7 rue Jacques Cartier, F-75018 Paris, France (e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.