Background: New psychoactive substances are conquering the drug scene. Among these
substances, cathinone derivatives have been observed since late in the years 2000. At that time, there
was evidence of increasing use of the synthetic cathinone mephedrone, particularly amongst clubbers.
Although the emergent drugs have an aura of safety, there is an increasing amount of experiences on
their secondary effects. Mephedrone is known to induce psychosis.
Method: Given the potential negative effects of mephedrone, the laboratory was asked to test for the
drug in hair, a cumulative matrix that can document single, occasional or repetitive abuse of
xenobiotics. Mephedrone was tested in hair by GC/MS, using a standard procedure developed for
stimulants such as amphetamine or ecstasy.
Results: In the head hair of 24 positive abusers, mephedrone was identified in the range 0.1 to 87
ng/mg, clearly determining 2 populations, one with co-administration of ecstasy and a second without
ecstasy. In the first population, mephedrone concentrations were 0.1 to 5 ng/mg; in the second
population, mephedrone concentrations were 3 to 87 ng/mg. These findings should help in the
understanding the addiction of subjects. In 4 separate forensic cases, mephedrone was identified in
hair of abusers, including a rape case (0.54 ng/mg), a fatal car crash (0.38 ng/mg), a fatal drowning
(1.21 ng/mg), and a fatal overdose (6.99 ng/mg).
Conclusion: Hair testing for new psychoactive substances appears as a good complement to standard
urine analyses. This study confirms the increasing diffusion of new drugs among the forensic
population of abusers.