New psychoactive substances (NPS) have emerged in a threatening way in the last decades. They are
sold via the internet or head shops with several names (bath salts, Research chemical, RCs, Legal Highs) and
forms (pills, tablets, powder...etc.), and are labelled ambiguously to escape governmental legislation. Designer
drugs belong to different chemical classes, but cathinones derivatives presented the most prevalent group. In
2013, this group accounted for 30% of NPS seizures in Europe with more than 450 different compounds, including
101 new molecules reported for the first time in 2014. The increased number of NPS as being sold in parallel
market has led several countries to adopt different strategies either on individual surveillance of new emerging
drugs or more efficiently on generic control regrouping a wide number of isomers and structurally similar compounds.
The identification of these substances is a challenge for toxicologists, which requires sensitive and specific
analytical methods based on LC-MS/MS or GC-MS. The usefulness of hair as an alternative matrix for
prevalence studies was proved since it offers an overview on drug exposure with a large detection window over
weeks or even months and years according to the length of the hair strand. However, as for many drugs of abuse,
prevalence studies on cathinones derivatives use are still scarce. Self-reported use or case reports provide most of
the available data.
The aim of this paper is to provide an update review on prevalence and surveillance of synthetic cathinones use
conducted by hair analysis, excluding case report.
Keywords: New psychoactive substances, designer drugs, bath salts, hair, alternative biological matrix, prevalence, mass spectrometry, synthetic
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